<
>

Cano's slam caps five-run seventh to sink Royals

NEW YORK -- Ramiro Pena finished his first big league home run trot and was greeted with the silent treatment in the New York dugout.

Several seconds later, Jorge Posada led the charge of teammates who mobbed the smiling rookie near the bat rack.

Nothing but good times for the Yankees a night after they clinched their first AL East crown since 2006, beating the Kansas City Royals 8-2 with a lineup full of backups Monday night.

"I went downstairs, and I went 'Oh man,'" Pena said on entering the dugout to the first-homer tradition. "It was a pretty good feeling."

Robinson Cano capped a five-run seventh inning with a grand slam and Chad Gaudin made a strong case for a spot on the postseason roster as New York improved to 45 games over .500 (101-56) for first time since ending 2002 with a 103-58 record.

Just the kind of game manager Joe Girardi was hoping for when he gave most of his regulars the night off for the opener of a three-game series against the Royals, the last AL squad to visit the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium.

"This is what you have in mind. You want the pitchers to take every pitch, defenders to take every play seriously and every at-bat seriously and our guys did that," Girardi said. "They might smile a little bit more right now but we smiled a lot during the course of the season."

When asked about being beaten by the Yankees secondary players, Royals manager Trey Hillman flatly said, "Yes. Yes, they did."

Cano's second career slam was his 25th homer and helped set a franchise record for most players with at least 25 in a season. He joined Mark Teixeira (38), Alex Rodriguez (28), Hideki Matsui (28) and Nick Swisher (27).

Posada returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after two days off because of a muscle spasm near his neck and reached base all four times. He had two hits, two walks and scored a run.

Despite a rain delay of 1 hour, 56 minutes at the start, there was a festive feel in the crowd of 45,348. The Bleacher Creatures in right-center did their first-inning roll call, but instead of "Mark Teixeira" they called for "Juan Miranda," and instead of "A-Rod" the shout was for "Er-ic Hinske."

Pena connected off Luke Hochevar (7-12) in the fifth, one pitch after Francisco Cervelli was caught stealing. Pena had gone 104 at-bats without a homer.

"I was pretty happy running the bases," said Pena, who got the home run ball back. "I was like, 'I got it, I got it.'"

Girardi couldn't resist giving Pena a high-five at the top of the dugout, refusing to go along with the fake freeze out, orchestrated by Rodriguez.

"It's great to be able to watch that happen, your first home run is always special," Girardi said. "I couldn't do it, I was excited for him."

Gaudin (2-0) earned his first win in 13 starts, dating to July 3 with San Diego, a career-long drought, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Yankees were winners in all five of his previous starts. He gave up four hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking two. The Yankees are deciding whether to carry Gaudin for a potential long-relief role in the first-round series.

"He's given us a lot," Girardi said. "He's a guy that's definitely in the mix because he can do so many things."

Mark Teahen homered for Kansas City.

Hinske had an RBI single past shortstop in the fourth. It would have been a sure double-play ball, but the position was vacated for a shift on the pull-hitting lefty.

Hochevar worked six-plus innings, giving up eight runs and 12 hits. He has given up at least five runs in four of his five September starts.

"It was mistakes in key situations. I need to do a better job of executing," Hochevar said.

Game notes
The South Shore Little League team from Staten Island that advanced to the semifinals of the Little League World Series lined up with Yankees players at their positions for the national anthem. ... Left fielder David DeJesus missed his fourth straight game with an illness. He remained in Kansas City. Hillman said DeJesus did not have swine flu. ... Yankees RHP A.J. Burnett had his scheduled start Monday pushed back a day so he could be with his father, who had triple bypass surgery.