NEW YORK — Hideki Matsui handled his 100th major league home run the way he usually handles success — staying mostly quiet and trying to deflect attention.
Matsui connected for his 22nd of the season, Mike Mussina won his third straight start and the surging New York Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals 8-5 Sunday.
“I’m just happy to be able to reach that,” Matsui said of his 100 big league homers.
Bobby Abreu went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Melky Cabrera also went deep for the Yankees, who wrapped up a 5-1 homestand and improved to 18-7 since the All-Star break. They have scored 102 runs in their last eight games at Yankee Stadium and moving 11 games over .500 for the first time this year.
New York, 91/2 games back in the wild-card race after play on July 7, pulled within a half-game of Detroit, the AL wild-card leader.
Matsui has been a big part of New York’s resurgence: He is batting .338 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs since July 1.
“I think everybody overall is just starting to hit well,” Matsui said through a translator, “and I think that’s contributing to our ability to score runs.”
Matsui’s homer came one day after teammate Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player in major league history to reach 500. A relaxed A-Rod got a rare start at designated hitter in the series finale and went 0-for-4 with a sacrifice fly.
Ross Gload hit a two-run homer and Joey Gathright had a career-high four hits for Kansas City, which has lost five of six overall and 19 of its last 20 in the Bronx. Gload went 2-for-4 and is batting .565 (13-for-23) with two homers and eight RBIs against New York this season.
“Right now we’ll be glad to get out of here,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “These guys are as hot as any team we’ve played all year.”
Mussina (7-7) allowed two runs and nine hits in six-plus innings to earn win No. 246, breaking a tie with Dennis Martinez for the most victories in major league history among pitchers without a 20-win season.
“I’m glad that I can still go out there andK.C.still be successful,” Mussina said. “To pitch long enough to win almost 250 games now and not ever win 20 in a season, it’s satisfying.”
He departed after allowing a leadoff single to Gathright in the seventh, and waved his hat toward the crowd as fans yelled “Moose” while he walked to the dugout. Brian Bruney replaced him and got Tony Pena Jr. to ground into a double play.
Bruney allowed the next two batters to reach, and Kansas City pushed across two runs before Mike Myers got Emil Brown to ground out to end the inning.
Myers allowed one run in one inning, and Mariano Rivera got four outs for his 17th save in 19 opportunities _ his first save since July 18.
Matsui led off the third inning with a drive to right that made it 5-0. He joined the Yankees in 2003 after hitting 332 over 10 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan’s Central League.
Cabrera led off the sixth with his seventh homer and Matsui also had a sacrifice fly to give New York an 8-2 lead.
“He just sucks up all those RBIs,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Matsui.
Both drives by New York were hauled in by 35-year-old Alexander Martinez of Hartford, Conn., who said he had never caught a home run before. Martinez returned the ball to Matsui for an autographed bat and ball.
Gil Meche (7-9) gave up six runs, six hits and five walks in four-plus innings for the Royals.
New York scored four runs off Meche in the second, a rally that started with two outs and nobody on. Cabrera had an RBI single, Derek Jeter walked with the bases loaded and Abreu drove in two runs with a single to center.
“It was a bad inning,” Meche said. “It just got away from me. I couldn’t get the ball down and I couldn’t throw strikes.”