Fading Yankees lose to the Royals

August 15, 2008 9:23:18 PM PDT
Mariano Rivera's first wild pitch of the season allowed the tiebreaking run to score in the ninth inning, and Jason Giambi flied out with the bases loaded to end the Kansas City Royals' 4-3 victory over the fading New York Yankees on Friday night. Mark Teahen hit a two-run double and Kansas City got another solid outing from Gil Meche, who hasn't lost in eight starts since July 2 at Baltimore. The last-place Royals improved to 6-29 at Yankee Stadium this decade by beating New York for the fifth time in eight meetings overall this season.

Pinch-runner Justin Christian was inexplicably picked off at first base for the first out of the ninth inning, the latest abysmal play by an injury-depleted Yankees team that is falling fast in the playoff race.

New York, which hasn't missed the postseason since 1993, dropped seven games behind Boston for the AL wild-card spot.

After Joakim Soria picked off Christian, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs. But the All-Star closer preserved Kansas City's second victory in nine games when Giambi hit a routine fly to center.

The Royals also beat Rivera (4-5) on June 9 to split a four-game series at Yankee Stadium. This time, Esteban German doubled with one out in the ninth and moved to third on Mitch Maier's infield single.

With Mike Aviles up, Rivera bounced a pitch that skipped off catcher Jose Molina and far enough behind the plate for German to scurry home without a play.

Leo Nunez (4-1) worked 1 2-3 scoreless innings for the win and Soria got three outs for his 33rd save in 36 chances.

During a 19-game stretch that has them playing 16 on the road, New York stopped home for a three-game pit stop against Kansas City. Coming off a 3-7 trip, the Yankees demoted slumping center fielder Melky Cabrera to the minors and cut backup first baseman Richie Sexson as part of a mini shakeup.

Brett Gardner was recalled from Triple-A and given a chance to hold down the everyday job in center. A light-hitting speedster, he went 0-for-4 but threw out a runner at the plate.

New York starter Andy Pettitte struck out his first two batters after the start was delayed 91 minutes by rain, but Kansas City jumped ahead in the second inning.

Jose Guillen drew a leadoff walk, went to third on Alex Gordon's one-out double and scored when Ross Gload hit a sacrifice fly.

John Buck snapped an 0-for-30 slide with a leadoff double in the fifth and the Royals loaded the bases with one out for Teahen. His ground-rule double made it 3-0 - though German came tearing around third unnecessarily and nearly passed Buck steps from home plate.

Buck even held out his arm, signaling his teammate to slow down and not run into him.

The Yankees began their comeback with a leadoff double by Molina in the bottom half. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position before Derek Jeter's RBI single.

Meche was lifted with a 3-1 lead after six innings and 106 pitches. He struck out eight and walked two.

Ron Mahay's wildness helped New York rally in the seventh. The left-hander walked Johnny Damon and Jeter with one out before Bobby Abreu's RBI single off Nunez cut it to 3-2. Alex Rodriguez tied it with a sacrifice fly.

Notes: Jeter returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's loss at Minnesota with a bruised foot. ... Pettitte hasn't lost to the Royals since August 1999, though they scored 10 earned runs off him June 7. ... German ended an 0-for-17 skid with a leadoff double in third. He was thrown out at the plate by Gardner on Aviles' bloop single. ... Royals OF David DeJesus sat out for the second consecutive game because of a sore lower back. ... Kansas City optioned pitcher Kyle Davies to Triple-A Omaha and recalled right-hander Jeff Fulchino from their top farm team.