NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius hit a go-ahead homer, Brett Gardner continued his power surge and the Yankees got the benefit of a close call at first base to edge the Royals, 4-2, on Monday at Yankee Stadium.
Gregorius and Gardner went deep off Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas, who lost to New York for the second time in a week. Gardner put the Yanks on the board with his ninth homer in 21 games, a solo shot in the third, and Gregorius slugged a two-run shot in the fourth inning.
"You've just got to stay in there," Gardner said. "Vargas isn't a guy who throws real hard, but he's a guy that knows how to pitch and he does a good job of throwing changeups to lefties. He tries to stay on the corners. You just have to keep your shoulder low and stand in there against them."
"He's obviously seeing the ball really well and putting good swings on it," said Vargas, who is 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in his last two starts, both against the Yankees. "He went down and hit a good pitch. You tip your hat and move along."
Kansas City believed it had tied the game in the seventh as Jorge Soler raced for the plate on Alcides Escobar's slow bouncer up the middle, fielded by second baseman Starlin Castro. Escobar was initially ruled safe at first, but that call was overturned after review.
"As soon as the play happened, I put my hand up," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I didn't know if he was safe or out. The replay we got on the board didn't really help us, so we had to rely on [the review]. They made it pretty quick."
Jorge Bonifacio hit a solo home run and Escobar delivered a run-scoring double off Yankees starter Michael Pineda, who worked 6 1/3 innings for the victory. Pineda permitted six hits, walking one and striking out six with a wild pitch.
Chris Carter padded the Yanks' lead with a solo homer, his third, in the seventh. Dellin Betances worked the ninth for his third save in as many opportunities. Kansas City has lost five of seven.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED (Almost) too close to call: Soler's aggressive baserunning nearly paid dividends in the seventh inning as the Kansas City outfielder broke from second base immediately on Escobar's chopper off the mound. Castro fielded and whipped it to first base, where Marvin Hudson ruled Escobar safe. Carter threw home behind Soler's dive for the plate. Girardi quickly challenged, and the Royals were left stunned at the top step of their dugout.
"With review, it's hard to say [if I was safe]," Escobar said. "They say you're out, you're out."
But Royals manager Ned Yost agreed with the overturn, saying, "We called [Royals replay specialist] Billy [Duplissea] right away, and he said he was out."
No worse for wear: The Royals were set up for a big inning in the fourth as Eric Hosmer ripped a leadoff double to left. Salvador Perez worked Pineda for a 12-pitch at-bat before popping up an 87.5-mph slider to Carter at first base, but the lengthy battle did not wear down the hurler, who then struck out both Brandon Moss and Bonifacio to pin Hosmer at second base. Pineda also squelched a budding Kansas City rally in the fifth.
"I think a lot goes back to that," Girardi said. "That's a tough at-bat. It seemed like he fouled off everything he threw -- sliders, changeups, fastballs. He's been swinging the bat really well, so to me, that was a huge out in the game."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
One very good reason the Royals are 1-3 on this road trip: They are 1-for-30 with runners in scoring position.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (3-3, 2.97 ERA) gets the start for the Royals in game two of the series on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Duffy threw seven scoreless innings against the Yankees last Thursday, giving up three hits while striking out 10 in a 5-1 win.
Yankees: Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.81 ERA) will get another crack at the Royals on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, making his eighth big league start. Montgomery took the loss last Thursday at Kansas City, allowing a career-high five earned runs in five innings.