Merrifield, Perez power Royals to 5-2 win over Yankees

Kansas City Royals' Jon Jay hits an RBI-single in the third inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The worst night CC Sabathia has had during 18 years in the big leagues came Wednesday, when the Yankees‘ big left-hander had to sleep in the team’s broken-down plane after a rainout in Washington.

Friday night wasn’t all that great, either.

Whit Merrifield had three hits, stole three bases and scored twice off Sabathia in the first four innings, Jakob Junis held down the Yankees’ potent offense, and Kansas City beat New York 5-2 on Friday night to open a three-game series between teams that had been headed radically different directions.

Salvador Perez homered and added three RBIs for the Royals, who had lost five straight and seven of eight, yet managed to stop a team that had won 19 of its last 22 games.

The weather has wreaked havoc on the Yankees’ routine this week, and that breakdown of their plane – combined with other factors that forced players to sleep onboard or in the terminal Wednesday night – hardly left them feeling good about their trip to Kansas City.

”Sleeping on the plan was not good, but I feel good with the rest,” said Sabathia, who allowed two runs and four hits while walking four, along with two unearned runs after second baseman Gleyber Torres coughed up a routine ground ball in the third inning.

Still, Sabathia (2-1) called the night spent on the plane ”the worst night I’ve had in the big leagues,” even if he was unwilling to use that or the Yankees’ scattershot schedule as an excuse.

”I’m sure people will take that as part of it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, ”but in 162 games you’re not going to be great every night. We were a little bit sloppy, but whether that was from having a couple of days off, I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

Junis (5-3) pitched into the sixth inning, allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk. But most of the hits he allowed were relatively benign base hits, rather than the towering, game-changing home runs that the Yankees had been hitting with regularity.

Kelvin Herrera capped a strong bullpen effort with a perfect ninth for his ninth save.

”(Sabathia’s) a good pitcher with good stuff. He’s deceptive and mixes his pitches up well,” Merrifield said. ”We were fortunate enough to scratch across a couple and Jake did the rest.”

The Yankees’ best opportunity to mount a rally came in the sixth, when Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks reached on base hits. Junis was lifted for reliever Tim Hill, who allowed Neil Walker’s run-scoring single and Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly before escaping.

”We just wanted to keep them off-balance with off-speed and not leave elevated over the plate,” Junis said, ”because that’s where they do their damage. We didn’t want to miss up over the plate.”

The rest of the Royals’ bullpen never gave the Yankees a chance.

Kyle McCarthy breezed through the seventh, striking out a pair, and Brad Keller handled a scoreless eighth – getting a running catch from Jon Jay – to give Herrera a chance to close it out.

ROSTER MOVE

Yankees RHP David Hale chose free agency over accepting an outright assignment. Hale had a 3.60 ERA before he was designated for assignment Tuesday to create roster space for OF Clint Frazier.

MAHOMES SIGHTING

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, who is poised to become the starter this season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Mahomes has become Kansas City’s top sports fan, attending Sporting KC games and last weekend wearing a Kansas City T-Bones jersey to a NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: OF Estevan Florial, one of New York’s top prospects, will require surgery on a fractured hamate bone in his right wrist after leaving Thursday night’s game with Class-A Tampa. Boone said he had a similar injury in 2001 and missed about a month. … 1B Greg Bird (right ankle surgery) is ”right around the corner” from rejoining the Yankees, Boone said. He’s been rehabbing at Double-A Trenton.

Royals: INF Cheslor Cuthbert remained sidelined with back spasms, though manager Ned Yost said he would be available as a defensive replacement. He was hurt in Monday’s game against the Rays.

UP NEXT

Royals LHP Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) tries to rebound Saturday night from a dismal start at Cleveland, when he allowed a career-high nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. The Yankees will counter with RHP Luis Severino (6-1), whose 2.14 ERA is fourth-best in the American League.

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