KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The Royals avoided a three-game sweep Wednesday night by escaping with a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
Make that ESCAPE. Capital letters.
Joakim Soria concluded a 40-pitch ninth inning by striking out Jorge Posada with the bases loaded after nearly blowing a two-run lead.
It was a fitting end because the Royals carried that two-run lead into the ninth only because Bruce Chen and Louis Coleman engineered major escape acts earlier in the game.
And, yes, also because Alex Gordon and Billy Butler delivered momentum-changing homers in a four-run third inning.
The victory snapped a four-game skid and enabled the Royals to gain a 3-3 split in their season series against the Yankees. The Royals won two of three in a May visit to New York.
Chen (8-5) labored through 33 pitches in the first inning while surrendering three hits and two walks but, somehow, he limited the damage to one run — on Curtis Granderson's 34th homer of the season. It came with one out.
That was big escape No 1.
Chen became far more efficient thereafter and pitched through the sixth inning before turning over a 5-3 lead to the bullpen.
Coleman ran into immediate problems in the seventh by yielding a leadoff single to Derek Jeter on an 0-2 pitch and then walking Granderson. But Coleman then struck out Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.
Big escape No. 2.
Jeter started the ninth-inning rally by getting his fourth hit with a one-out single on a drive to center. Melky Cabrera appeared to make a diving catch, but the ball squirted free when he hit the ground. Granderson followed with a single to right.
A four-pitch walk to Teixeira loaded the bases before Cano, on a full count, sent a sacrifice fly to left field. After a passed ball moved the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position, a walk to Swisher reloaded the bases.
Soria ended the game, finally, by striking out Posada.
Yankees starter Bartolo Colon (8-7) surrendered a 2-0 lead by yielding four runs in the third inning on homers by Gordon and Butler. Colon gave up another run in the fifth before exiting.
Before the Royals got to Colon, Granderson helped New York extend its lead to 2-0 after he opened the third inning with a double off the right-field wall. Swisher delivered the run with a two-out RBI single.
The Royals struck back in their third.
Mike Moustakas led off with a double off the right-field wall — the first of his three hits — and went to third on Alcides Escobar's single off Teixeira's glove at first base.
Gordon followed by driving a full-count fastball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer. It was his 15th homer of the season and boosted his RBI count to a career-best 62. His previous best was 60 as a rookie in 2007.
Butler then sent a one-out drive to left-center for another homer and a 4-2 lead. The Yankees protested the ball didn't clear the wall, and the umpires reviewed the play before reaffirming the homer.
A sparkling play by second baseman Johnny Giavotella kept the lead at 4-2 in the fourth after Jeter ripped a two-out double into the left-center gap. Granderson followed with a grounder to the right side that got past first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Giavotella prevented an RBI single with a diving stop. He got to his feet and threw to Chen, who broke quickly from the mound, for the final out.
Cabrera opened the fifth with a triple into the right-center gap. Colon then walked Butler before Hosmer made it 5-2 with a fielder's-choice grounder to first.
The Yankees countered that run on Russell Martin's one-out homer in the sixth.