NEW YORK -- If the Royals were looking to make a statement against the Yankees on Monday night, they can thank the weather for an assist. Kansas City weathered a 59-minute rain delay and some difficult situations late in the game to take a 5-1 victory in its series opener against New York.
Starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led a full team effort for the Royals, pitching into the seventh inning and allowing just one run. Billy Butler homered and Mike Moustakas scored twice in the victory, and closer Greg Holland escaped a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the ninth inning.
All of that added up to one win, but it was also a symbol of a larger phenomenon at play. The Royals are now 4-3 in a stretch of 20 straight games against playoff contenders, and they'll close out the first half of the season with three games against New York and three more against Cleveland.
"This is a tough place to come in here and get a win, especially for us," said Butler. "I've been up here a while now, and it's been tough for us every year I've been here to come in and get a win. It means a lot. It's the first one of the series, which means we'll try to go for another one tomorrow."
The Royals went 3-3 at home against Cleveland and Oakland before beginning this road trip, and they will travel to face the Indians right before the break. When the second half resumes, the Royals will be matched up against first-place Detroit and American League East contender Baltimore.
That was the backdrop for Monday's series opener, which kicked off in pleasant weather conditions. That gradually changed a bit, and by the fourth inning, the teams were playing in a steady downpour. Guthrie asked for the mound to be tended at one point, and the delay kicked in moments later.
The Royals, who were playing with a tired bullpen, elected to push Guthrie as far as he could go. The veteran spent the hour-long delay throwing indoors and sitting down every 10-15 minutes. Kansas City held a 2-0 lead when the rain delay began, and Guthrie lobbied to stay in the game.
"If it's cold and nasty, he'd have been done," said manager Ned Yost. "With this hot, humid weather, he was able to stay loose. He was able to throw in the cage. We're just going minute by minute with him, just seeing where he was and how he was feeling. Tremendous competitor. He showed it today to be able to endure an hour rain delay and go out and throw at the level that he threw."
Indeed, Guthrie, who had also pitched through a rain delay in his previous start, didn't show much of a hangover when the game resumed. The right-hander retired five of the first six batters he faced after the game resumed, part of a larger stretch in which he coaxed 12 outs in a 13-batter stretch.
Guthrie's shutout ended in the seventh on a home run by pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay, and he exited the game after allowing back-to-back two-out singles in that inning. Tim Collins came on to get a crucial out, and Guthrie (8-6) wound up with his first victory since beating Detroit on June 10.
"I should be a rain delay All-Star. If they had a rain delay team, I'd probably be the starting pitcher," said Guthrie, who has pitched through three rain delays in 18 starts this season.
"I grew up in Oregon, so I'm used to it. My dad always considered me a pitcher that did well in the rain. I've had my ups and downs in the rain this year. Some good, some bad."
Meanwhile, the Royals (42-44) were working hard to give Guthrie a cushion. Butler hit a tailing homer to the opposite field to lead off the second inning, and Moustakas scored on a two-out double by David Lough. Moustakas later scored an insurance run on a Johnny Giavotella double in the seventh.
Phil Hughes, who started for New York, didn't come back out after the fourth-inning rain delay. Hughes (4-8) surrendered both runs in the second inning and yielded to Adam Warren. The Yankees (48-41) still had a few chances to get back into the game, though, in the eighth and ninth innings.
Collins struck out Eduardo Nunez to escape a seventh-inning jam, but the southpaw allowed a hit and a walk in the eighth. The Royals went to Aaron Crow with two outs, and he got Vernon Wells to end the threat on a ground ball. Kansas City scored two runs in the ninth to get some crucial insurance.
Still, the bottom of the ninth brought some drama. Luke Hochevar gave up a walk and a single to the only two batters he faced, and Holland allowed a hit to load the bases. From there, Holland took control of the game, striking out three straight batters for his 21st save.
"That's the way it's worked for us," said Yost. "We get into the seventh inning and we've got Collins or Crow. Same thing with the eighth inning. Holly's been lights-out for us all year long. Greg Holland's been as comfortable as you can be with the closer. You didn't want to bring him in in a non-save situation because you know tomorrow with CC Sabathia and James Shields, the odds are it's going to be another tight game. I didn't want him going out and throwing 15-20 pitches in a non-save and then have to come in tomorrow in a one-run [game]. But in a save situation, that changes everything."
The Royals are 1-3 against the Yankees this season, including 1-0 at Yankee Stadium. They are 6-8 in the Bronx since the new building opened in 2009. The bigger picture shows Kansas City with wins in four of the last six games and momentum headed into Tuesday, but the players know good fortune can disappear as quickly as Monday's rain materialized.
"We definitely have a tough schedule, but it's the big leagues. Every team's tough," said Butler of the current stretch. "It doesn't matter on any given night. We're not really looking at the strength of schedule. We're really just trying to go out each night and trying to put together a win."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.