"I sat over there during the course of the game trying to figure out a better left-hander in the game today than CC Sabathia, and I couldn't come up with one," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Yost's own left-hander, Chen, kept up with Sabathia over the first six innings witnessed by 24,153 fans.
"Bruce made three mistakes that cost him five runs but, boy, after the first inning, he settled in and matched Sabathia pitch-for-pitch," Yost said. "The Yankees have a lineup that can put runs on the board in a hurry, and we saw it in the seventh inning. It took a span of seven pitches to put four runs up after Bruce got two outs, but he was really rolling up to that point."
Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira have always considered Chen a welcome sight on the mound. Jeter is 18-for-42 (.429) against Chen in his career, so it was no surprise that he opened the game with a single.
"Right now, he's on fire and hitting the ball well," Chen said of Jeter.
And one out later, it must have seemed like old times to Teixeira when he hammered a two-run homer far over the left-field bullpen. That was the seventh home run -- as well as the 14th and 15th RBIs -- by Teixeira off Chen in his career. All that damage among 11 hits in just 22 at-bats.
"There are certain pitchers you just happen to get lucky against and happen to have success," Teixeira said. "There's a ton of guys out there that can say they own me, that I'm 0-for-20 against. It just happens that I've had some success off Bruce."
So the Royals were behind, 2-0, and had to challenge the powerful Sabathia.
And they did. Jarrod Dyson opened the Royals' first inning with a single off third baseman Eduardo Nunez's glove and scored on Alex Gordon's double to right-center field. Sabathia recorded two outs, but Jeff Francoeur's drive into the same alley got Gordon home for a 2-2 tie.
This is where the two veteran left-handed starters began decorating the scoreboard with zeroes. In fact, after Alcides Escobar's double in the second inning, Sabathia retired 12 Royals in succession. That stretch ended with two outs in the sixth, when Eric Hosmer's high drive banged off the center-field wall and the leaping Curtis Granderson's glove for a triple. But Hosmer was stranded there as Francoeur grounded out.
Then came the decisive seventh inning. The first mistake Chen had made was a first-inning cutter to Teixeira that was supposed to go in but didn't and wound up over the wall. The other two mistakes came in the seventh.
Robinson Cano led off with a single, and now came the second mistake, a fastball down the middle that Nunez ripped down the right-field line for a triple that broke the tie. Chris Stewart singled in Nunez.
Up came Jeter again, and Chen made his third mistake, hanging a breaking ball that was sent flying over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
"He knows what he's doing," Jeter said. "He knows how to pitch. He mixes things up. He just left the ball up there."
Chen gave the Royals something that they needed, a lengthy start -- 6 2/3 innings -- to give the bullpen a break.
"Outside of those three pitches, Bruce was pretty dynamic tonight," Yost said.
And, yes, Chen has spent some extra time trying to figure out how to handle Teixeira and Jeter.
"Sometimes the matchups are not very good and I try to do everything," Chen said. "I throw them curveballs, I throw them changeups, I throw them cutters. But the last thing I want to do is nitpick and be too fine, because you fall behind in the count and it's even worse."
Jeter has his average at .404 with five home runs and 15 RBIs.
"His bat is staying in the strike zone for a long time," Yost said. "He's hitting a bunch of different pitches in a bunch of different locations and finding holes."
Or finding a way over the fence.