Before Monday's rout of the Royals, manager Joe Girardi noted that the very players responsible for the Yankees' recent swoon were the same ones who were responsible for getting them into first place a few weeks ago. If they could win then, he said, they can win again.
He was right, but Monday, they received plenty of help.
Sure, Chase Headley, Brian McCann and Brett Gardner brought the first-inning power en route to the Yankees' 14-1 win, and Nathan Eovaldi provided the type of solid pitching they will need to stay alive in their weak division.
But as it turned out, one of the biggest contributors to the Yankees' success had nothing to do with their recent failures. He was on the mound for the other guys.
The Yankees capitalized on a brutal pitching performance by Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, who allowed four homers and 11 earned runs in one inning-plus and proved to be little more than a batting tee at a Memorial Day hit parade. That lifted the Yankees to only their second win in 12 games and snapped a six-game skid.
"Our game is probably as unpredictable as any game in professional sports, just because it really depends a lot on one guy, in a sense, your starting pitcher that day," Girardi said after the Yankees' five-homer, 14-hit performance. "You could have your ace going and he might not have his stuff that day and he might get hammered and give up a lot of runs. It's really unpredictable. We've been on both sides."
They were on the winning side Monday, scoring eight runs in the first inning and three in the second. Three pitches into the game, they led 2-0. Five batters in, they led 5-0. Sixteen batters in, they led 11-0, and Guthrie was done.
He retired only three of those 16, giving up nine hits, walking three and hitting a batter. His ERA rose from 4.75 to 6.70.
Guthrie gave up a long two-run homer by Headley plus three-run shots by McCann and Gardner in the first inning, and Stephen Drew added a three-run blast into the second deck in rightfield in the second. Guthrie had allowed only one home run in 341/3 innings in his previous six starts.
Slade Heathcott added a two-run shot off Greg Holland, the first homer of his career, in the seventh.
"It was just a lot of energy" in the dugout, said Headley, who had an RBI double in the fifth. "There's a lot of pent-up frustration [over things that] haven't been going our way, so guys were having fun. When things are going bad, you're kind of looking for a reason to get excited."
With the win over the team that began the day with the best record in baseball, the Yankees moved one game over .500. Their five homers tied their season high (at Tampa Bay May 11).
It also was an encouraging day for Eovaldi (4-1, 4.27). He allowed one earned run, eight hits and a walk in seven innings, striking out four.
"He used his curveball effectively, he got some strikeouts with his split," Girardi said. "I thought he mixed his pitches really effectively . . . When he has his off-speed and he can throw them for strikes, he's really effective."
Gardner, Headley, Drew and McCann had three RBIs each. Headley fell a triple short of the cycle.
"This game can humble you pretty quickly," Gardner said. "We played really well for three or four weeks and then you lose 10 out of 11 and you start second-guessing yourself. Today we needed that, and hopefully we can use that."