KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Danny Duffy had thrown Robinson Cano nearly everything in his arsenal in the fourth inning.
After watching him foul off seven pitches, Duffy threw a seldom-used slider, and it was a big mistake.
Cano sent the pitch screaming into the Kauffman Stadium fountains in right field for a three-run homer, and it helped lift the New York Yankees to a 9-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
"He's a great hitter," Duffy said. "What can I say? I left a slider up. I don't throw too many sliders. I left one up. If it was down, I probably would have got a ground ball. He wasted a lot of good pitches. He battled and battled. I threw him a cookie and he salivated as that ball was coming in. He got it."
Cano, who drove in four runs, has 21 home runs and 85 RBIs this season.
"That was a great at-bat Cano put on Duffy," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He ended up getting a breaking ball out over the plate that he hit a long way. He's a pretty special player."
The Royals' offense had been struggling lately, but broke out with nine hits, including five for extra bases.
"It's tough to win a slugfest," Yost said. "You never want to score seven runs and lose. You score seven runs you should be able to win a ball game. We still have to refine our starting pitching."
Duffy was tagged in the leg by a hard grounder off the bat of Eduardo Nunez, and Yost believes the impact on his calf affected him. Yost said "his stuff was still good, but his command was all over the place." Duffy's leg was wrapped after the game.
"It was on the meat." Duffy said, refusing to use it as an excuse for his poor performance. "It didn't get me on the bone. It tightened up, but it didn't tighten in the game."
Russell Martin and Derek Jeter each drove in a pair to help give Ivan Nova his eighth consecutive victory.
Nova (12-4) struggled almost as much as Duffy (3-7), allowing five runs and seven hits through three innings. But he settled down to retire the side in order the next two frames, and survived long enough to move past Alfredo Aceves for the longest winning streak by a Yankees rookie since 1980.
The right-hander also tied Orlando Hernandez and Andy Pettitte for the most wins by a Yankees rookie in the past three decades. Nova hasn't lost since a 3-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on June 3.
Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson shepherded the game to Mariano Rivera, who pitched another perfect ninth for his 32nd save. It was also his 27th in a row against Kansas City dating to May 2, 1999.
"A win is a win," Nova said, "no matter the way you get it."
Billy Butler hit a two-out single in the first, Eric Hosmer followed with an RBI double and Francoeur gave the Royals a 2-0 lead with a single. But New York pulled ahead in the third when Duffy's command failed him.
He plunked Curtis Granderson with one out, walked Mark Teixeira, allowed an RBI single to Cano and walked Nick Swisher to load the bases. Yost came out to the mound, but the brief visit didn't seem to do much good. Martin's two-run double moments later gave New York the lead.
Kansas City answered the three-spot with three runs of its own in the bottom of the inning. Alcides Escobar started the rally with a triple to left, and Alex Gordon's chopper to third base brought him home. Cabrera followed with his 16th homer, and Butler singled and Francoeur doubled to give the Royals a 5-3 lead.
Then came the Yankees' eventful fourth inning, which included: a leadoff bunt single by Brett Gardner; an RBI double by Jeter; back-to-back singles by Granderson and Teixeira; Yost getting tossed for arguing balls and strikes, his third ejection of the year; and Cano's homer, estimated at 421 feet.
The Royals finally knocked Nova out of the game when Salvador Perez's two-run double in the sixth pulled them to 8-7, but New York added to its cushion with its final run in the seventh.
Nova was ultimately charged with seven runs on nine hits in 5 2-3 innings. It was his worst start since he gave up eight runs on 10 hits in three innings against the Royals on May 12 at Yankee Stadium.
This time, though, he at least earned the win.
Notes: Yankees RHP Freddy Garcia threw some fastballs and changeups in a bullpen session while testing out the finger he sliced in a kitchen mishap. Manager Joe Girardi said he's not sure when Garcia will return, but it will likely be this weekend at Minnesota. ... Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez (knee surgery) went 1 for 3 while playing six innings in a rehab game for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. ... Royals LHP Bruce Chen (7-5) faces Yankees RHP Bartolo Colon (8-6) in the series finale Wednesday night.