Yanks jump on Royals to keep pace in Wild Card

Prado, bats take advantage of KC lefty Duffy's injury, back McCarthy

Yanks jump on Royals to keep pace in Wild Card

NEW YORK -- Martin Prado's mildly strained left hamstring is not fully healed. That much was clear to anyone who watched as he gingerly ran around the basepaths during the Yankees' 6-2 victory over the Royals on Saturday.

Prado jogged into second base on both of his doubles, content not to vie for a triple. He labored to score from second on Mark Teixeira's single in the first -- with Prado saying he thought, "Oh my, please let me get to home plate, and then I'll figure out if I'm good or not."

These are important games for the Yankees. They need to put together wins in bunches if they are going to secure a spot in the postseason, and players acquired at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline like Prado need to contribute.

With Saturday's win, the Yankees stayed 4 1/2 games back of Seattle for the second American League Wild Card spot.

"It's been killing me just to see everybody grind it out up there every single day and knowing that we got a pretty good chance to do something special here," Prado said.

Prado sustained the injury rounding first base on Tuesday night and it sidelined him for three games. He said earlier in the week that he did not want to play at less than 100 percent, preferring to miss a few games to completely heal when playing right away could have caused the injury to get worse and end his season.

But Prado has been one of the Yankees' best hitters lately, and their struggling offense can hardly afford to play without him. He went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles while hitting in the No. 3 spot in the order -- which also was a result of a lower abdominal injury to Brett Gardner.

In his last 17 games, Prado is hitting .403 with four home runs, 14 runs and 11 RBIs.

"He's been a really big part of our lineup here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We need to keep him out there and keep him going."

Girardi told Prado before the game to be smart running the bases and to protect himself, which is another reason why he ran with such caution.

The Yankees caught a break early. One pitch into the game, the Royals lost their starting pitcher, Danny Duffy, to left shoulder soreness.

Duffy has been one of the Royals' most reliable pitchers as they have made their run to the top of the American League Central. He owns a 2.42 ERA and had allowed more than two earned runs only once since July 6.

Liam Hendriks was presented with the unenviable task of being asked to pitch with little notice. In four innings, he gave up seven hits and four runs (three earned). Then the Yankees tagged Casey Coleman for two runs in the fifth.

It remains to be seen if this game will help the Yankees burst out of their season-long struggles at the plate, but this may have been the break they needed after being shut out by James Shields and Wade Davis on Friday night.

New York received contributions from various members of its lineup. Derek Jeter (sacrifice fly), Teixeira (single), Carlos Beltran (double) and Jacoby Ellsbury (triple) all drove in a run.

Brandon McCarthy had been hit hard in his previous two starts, allowing nine runs and 14 hits in 12 1/3 innings, but he rebounded to turn in a solid outing. He surrendered two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 8-4 with a 2.70 ERA in his last 13 starts.

"I felt like I did a good job. When I got into some jams, I did a good job bearing down and making pitches," McCarthy said. "They hit a couple of good pitches. It was just kind of one of those days that you're working for everything you get. It's not like it comes easy."

Further illustrating just how important every game is becoming to the Yankees, Girardi used his two best relievers, Dellin Betances and David Robertson, to close out the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, in a four-run game.

And Prado may have been the biggest contributor in a game where he seemed far from 100 percent.

"I want to be there," Prado said. "I want to be out there for my teammates."

Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.