KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's a long way from 1980 and, boy, the New York Yankees pounded that point home Saturday night in an 8-3 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Alex Rodriguez hit three home runs, which gives him 604 for his career. The Yankees also got homers from Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson.
Three homers came in a three-run sixth inning that snapped a 1-1 tie and knocked out Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan, who is now winless in five starts since arriving last month in a trade from the Angels.
Rodriguez's second homer was a two-run boomer in the seventh against reliever Kanekoa Texeira after the Royals had closed to within 4-3 with two runs in their sixth against Yankees starter Phil Hughes.
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A-Rod's third homer was a two-run splash into the left-field fountains in the ninth inning against rookie Greg Holland. It was the fourth three-homer game in Rodriguez's career; his first since April 26, 2005 against the Angels.
"Tonight was a treat," Rodriguez said. "It's a fun night and a night I'll never forget. You just don't do things like that often in a career. It was nice to carry the team for one night."
All the Royals could do was take it and marvel.
"The three home runs," manager Ned Yost said, "I didn't think any of them were terrible pitches. I think you just take your hat off to their hitters. They've got some really good hitters over there."
New York had not hit more than three homers in any game this season before its five-bomb party, which came on a night the Royals set aside to honor their first pennant winners — the 1980 club that swept the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff and others took part in pre-game ceremonies. Clips from the 1980 ALCS, climaxed by that memorable Brett homer against Goose Gossage, recalled happier times.
And then A-Rod hits three homers. The Yankees hit five. And the Royals, despite a 10-hit attack, simply lacked the muscle to keep pace.
At least the 1980 commemorative coasters, the giveaway for the crowd of 34,206, were really pretty nice. Really.
Hughes improved to 14-5 while allowing three runs and nine hits in six innings. A bullpen relay of Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Sergio Mitre closed out the victory.
O'Sullivan (1-4) opened with four shutout innings before minimizing trouble in one-run fifth that tied the game. Rodriguez, Posada and Granderson homered in a span of four batters in the sixth.
None were cheap, either. Rodriguez went 412 feet to the left of dead center; Posada went 421 feet to the right of dead center; and Granderson pulled a 383-foot liner over the right-field wall.
"That's a team that can get things going in a hurry," said O'Sullivan, who gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. "Obviously, I'm not happy with the result, but I thought the pitches were good.
"The pitch to A-Rod was down and in. I went back and looked at the tape, and it was a good pitch. Same thing with Posada. Curveball down. It's not like I left the ball over the middle of the dish or up and elevated."
The Royals lost for the sixth time in seven games in falling to 48-69. They remain tied with Cleveland for last place in the AL Central and now trail first-place Minnesota by 19 games.
New York, in contrast, owns baseball's best record at 72-44 and maintained its two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East.
The Royals scored first by nicking Hughes for a two-out run in the first inning. Billy Butler pumped a double into the left-center gap and galloped home when Wilson Betemit, who finished with three hits, grounded a single into center field.
O'Sullivan protected the 1-0 lead into the fifth when Brett Gardner led off with a hustle double to right. Ramiro Pena's attempted sacrifice then turned into a bunt single, but the Yankees settled for just one run when Jeter grounded into a double play.
Then came the sixth. The Royals answered New York's three-homer burst with two runs, including a leadoff homer by Betemit. That made it 4-3 but only set the stage for Rodriguez.
A-Rod's second homer was a no-doubt bomb to center against Texeira in the seventh on a pitch down and likely out of the strike zone. That made it 6-3.
"You just have to laugh (when that happens)," Texeira said. "If you've got to give up home runs, you want to give them up to someone who hits home runs."
Rodriguez's last homer was sheer icing but also the most impressive.
"Fell behind, two off-speed pitches," Holland said. "Tried to go away, I threw him a cookie and it hit the (water)."
The ball sailed 439 feet into the fountains beyond the left-field wall. A long way.
A long way from 1980, too.