The Yankees were determined to keep Ivan Nova’s impressive winning streak intact. The only question was whether he would be around long enough to reap the rewards.

It turned out he was. Just barely.

Nova survived into the fifth inning in his shakiest outing in months, and Robinson Cano’s three-run homer into the Kauffman Stadium fountains gave him a lift. Russell Martin and Derek Jeter each added a pair of RBIs and the Yankees went on to beat the Kansas City Royals 9-7 on Tuesday night.

“A win is a win, no matter the way you get it,” said the soft-spoken Nova (12-4), who tied Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez for the most wins by a Yankees rookie in the past three

Nova has won eight straight decisions going back to a 3-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on June 3.

“We won the game. Bottom line is we won the game,” manager Joe Girardi added. “He doesn’t need a mulligan. I mean, he’s pitched really well. Great pitchers get hit. It’s going to happen.”

Nova finally departed with one out in the fifth, and Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson shepherded the game to Mariano Rivera. The veteran closer pitched another perfect ninth for his 32nd save, his second in as many nights, and his 27th in a row against Kansas City dating to May 2, 1999.

The Yankees (74-46) moved a season-best 28 games over .500 and a half game ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East with their 16th win in their last 22 games.

Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer against his former team, and Jeff Francoeur drove in a pair of runs as the Royals took a 5-3 lead through three innings. But the Yankees blew the game open with a
five-run fourth, which included a stretch of five consecutive hitters reaching to start the inning. Cano delivered the biggest blow, a rocket shot into the fountains in right field to finish off a 12-pitch at-bat and knock Danny Duffy from the game.

The 22-year-old Duffy (3-7) allowed eight runs and eight hits, walked two and hit two after mowing through the first three batters he faced in just 11 pitches. He ended up throwing 90 before he was

“It’s a pretty big heartache to lose a game like that,” Duffy said.


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