The night nearly got away from the Yankees in the ninth, as third baseman Alex Rodriguez had to make a long throw on an Alcides Escobar grounder that could have pushed home the tying run. Mark Teixeira made a nice stretch to secure the 27th out and complete Rafael Soriano's third save.
"It felt really good to win a game like this," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes you need a game like this to kind of get you on a roll. Hopefully it's a good sign of things to come. We haven't been winning these kinds of games lately."
One night after the Yankees were a hapless 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position, their lineup began to stir back to life, notching two hits in seven such chances.
Robinson Cano slugged a solo home run into the right-field bullpen off Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar in the fourth, preceding a fifth-inning rally.
Teixeira's fifth-inning single was bobbled by right fielder Jeff Francoeur for an error, and Russell Martin's jersey was brushed by a Hochevar pitch. Dewayne Wise caught the Royals napping with a bunt single to set up a bases-loaded, none-out situation.
"If I don't hit him, maybe they don't bunt -- there's just a lot of things that can happen," said Hochevar, who allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings. "That was just a big at-bat in that inning. After that, going through the heart of the lineup is a grind."
Jeter delivered the hit that allowed Yankee Stadium to exhale, slicing a run-scoring single into right field and snapping a string of 12 consecutive hitless at-bats with the bases loaded.
"You can't go to the plate thinking about what's happened in the previous game," Jeter said. "Every time you're up, you have a chance to do something. Fortunately, it found a hole."
Granderson knocked in the go-ahead run with a grounder to second base, but Hochevar prevented further damage by issuing an intentional walk to Cano, then striking out Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez in succession.
"I love that," Rodriguez said. "It makes me really excited, but I don't like striking out in that situation. I'll take my chances. They're going to do that again, and I'm going to be ready."
The Yankees were able to make the slim lead hold up, though Hughes had them on the edge of their seats in the sixth before getting Irving Falu to fly out, leaving the bases loaded.
"I knew I had to pitch well, that's the bottom line, and we scored just enough runs," said Hughes, who won for the third time in four starts. "Hopefully this can get us kind of going a little bit so we can get on the West Coast [this weekend] and do what we need to do there."
Hughes was more or less pleased with his outing, turning in six innings that were blemished only by Humberto Quintero's run-scoring double in the third and Jeff Francoeur's homer in the fourth.
"I thought he was pretty good," Girardi said of Hughes. "I thought he used his changeup really effectively, I thought he used his fastball, I thought his curveball was pretty good tonight. So I'm pleased with the way he threw the ball."
Five relievers finished up behind Hughes, with Girardi mixing and matching out of his bullpen to get to Soriano, who pitched around a one-out Alex Gordon double in a scoreless ninth.
"[Hughes] did exactly what we needed him to -- threw strikes," Jeter said. "It was a close game, but he was in control pretty much the whole time. And our bullpen's been good pretty much the entire year, so we've just got to score runs."
It may have taken some quirks to get the Yankees moving back toward the right track, like Teixeira's snag of an eighth-inning liner that he effortlessly turned into a double play, but they weren't complaining.
As Girardi agreed from his chair in the news conference room, after losing six of their last seven and dipping to the .500 mark, any win sure seemed like a good one.
"I think so," Girardi said. "It doesn't matter how it happens. If crazy things happen and popups are dropped, it doesn't really matter how it happens. It can relax the guys a little bit."