Headley's homer gives Yanks' lineup a big lift

Headley's homer gives Yanks' lineup a big lift

KANSAS CITY -- Chase Headley's career with the Yankees started with perhaps the best possible first impression, and so nearly a year later, there is still a great deal of confidence whenever the veteran infielder steps to the plate in a big situation.

Headley smashed a three-run homer in the fifth inning of a 5-1 victory over the Royals on Saturday evening at Kauffman Stadium, and for a player whose New York debut featured a walk-off, extra-inning single last July 22, it was a continuation of the same storyline.

"I think I've learned to get better in those situations as my career has gone on, not put too much pressure on myself," Headley said. "Everybody wants to be in those situations and everybody wants to come through; it's a matter of allowing yourself to do it and not getting in your own way."

Headley said that early in his career with the Padres, he struggled with doing that, but lately he has been able to let the situation come to him more often. That was where he was in the fifth inning, facing Royals lefty Danny Duffy, as Headley looked at a close 2-2 pitch out of the strike zone to work the count full.

Irked by the call, Duffy then tried a changeup that Headley crushed into the left-field bullpen for his fifth homer of the season. Three runs with one swing was a very welcome sign for a Yankees club that had been scuffling to score over its previous four-game losing streak.

"It's a good feeling; obviously it really picked up the dugout," manager Joe Girardi said. "It changes the feeling, because we have been struggling to score runs since that first day in Tampa. All of a sudden we get three quick ones. That's how we score a lot -- we just hadn't done it in the last few days."

Headley's bat was among the cooler ones on the roster; he entered play Saturday with four hits in 15 at-bats on the road trip, then made outs in his first two plate appearances.

"Big hit," Headley said. "Obviously we've been grinding a little bit to score runs and myself personally been doing the same. I got down in the count and was able to fight my way back into it, finally got a pitch I could handle and put a good swing on it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.