Clark Schmidt fouled, and a familiar, disapproving murmur spread through the ballpark.
Schmidt surrendered a three-run home run, and the Yankees fell behind by two runs in the top of the fourth inning.
And these days any scarcity seems debilitating.
But as the Yankees looked to begin their season comeback, Billy McKinney led the Friday night comeback.
McKinney responded with a three-run homer of his own in the bottom of the fourth, and both his bat and glove performed brilliantly in a 5–4, series-opening victory over the Royals in front of a sellout crowd of 46,242 in The Bronx.
The center fielder, who was slumping, made two remarkable catches and hit his first homer in 15 games, giving the Yankees the lead, albeit by a slight margin.
McKinney was one of three home runs for the Yankees, who hit a total of seven runs in Anaheim earlier in the week, suffering a three-game sweep.
With the win, the Yankees (51–47) snapped a four-game losing streak and woke up from their nightmare of 1–5.
The disappointing Mets will head to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday after two more games against the dreaded Royals (28-71).
As poorly as the Yankees have played, it is not hard to imagine a run against inferior competition at home.
It would also be easy to imagine the boom if McKinney finds a stroke again.
The center fielder was excellent when called up in early June and was hitting .320 after his 15th game.
But that was followed by a deep slump (in line with the deep slump of almost all attacks) and he finished 3 for 29 in his last 14 matches on Friday.
In the fourth inning in a quiet stadium, McKinney stepped to the plate shortly after Schmidt allowed a three-run homer to Michael Massey to give the Yankees a 1–0 lead.
With two outs, DJ LeMahieu walked and Anthony Volpe singled.
McKinney then hit Alec Marsh’s first pitch curveball over the right field wall to give the Yankees a 4–3 lead and a glimmer of hope for a weak offense.
Franchi Cordero’s second inning home run gave the Yankees a 1–0 lead.
Gleyber Torres’ 15th homer of the season in the fifth inning allowed some relief and cut the lead to 5–3.
The Yankees needed that breathing space as Tommy Kahnle hit a second home run to Massey in the eighth inning, which scored all four of the Royals’ runs.
Clay Holmes recorded his 12th save, but the ninth inning also provided some worrying moments.
Drew Waters singled, then stole second base with one out before Mackel Garcia grounded out. With two outs, Bobby Witts Jr. Hit a ground ball to the hole at shortstop.
Anthony Volpe backhanded the ball and threw to third – and a replay review determined that Lemahieu had timed the tag.
The Yankees held on to their lead thanks to clutch pitching and excellent fielding from McKinney.
With the Royals trailing 5–3, Waters began the seventh inning by blowing out a Wendy Peralta changeup nearly 393 feet.
McKinney followed, leaping swiftly over the wall and catching him at his peak, probably stealing a home run and at least an extra base.
This was his second tremendous catch of the game.
He also denied Kyle Isbell at least a run with a sliding catch in the left-center gap to end the third inning.
The Yankees’ defense and pitching prevented Kansas City from completing their comeback, but the Royals also helped.
Kansas City was behind by one in the fifth when Schmidt and the Yankees caught a critical break.
Isbell hit a double over the head of Anthony Rizzo and first off of Nick Prato.
Giancarlo Stanton couldn’t field it cleanly into the right-field corner, and Prato could have headed home—but he ended up on third.
Schmidt was given a second chance, stranding the runners.
He grounded out to Garcia and ejected Witt, then pumped his fists as he walked off the mound.
One inning later, the Royals put runners on the corners with two outs when Schmidt, who had given up three runs in 5 ⁄ innings, was pulled for Peralta.
The reliable lefty broke Prato’s bat on a fly out for the save.
The Yankees’ bullpen barely held the lead McKinney had built up.
With his bat and gloves, the center fielder showed a pulse, allowing the languishing club to start dreaming of a comeback in more than one game.