KANSAS CITY, Mo. - This weekend, you had a better chance of getting out of the lots at Belmont Park 10 minutes after the Stakes than seeing the Yankees get a key hit.
Of course, the Yankees' problems with the bats run far deeper than a couple of days, the reason they're a .500 baseball team again and looking like a long shot to be even that good by the end of this 10-game trip. Sunday was particularly galling, as Hiroki Kuroda's solid outing was wasted in a 2-1 loss to the Royals.
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"It was a game of missed opportunities," said Derek Jeter, who is in an 8-for-46 skid since his four-hit day against the White Sox on May 25. "You give those guys credit . . . [but] we've got to find ways to score runs. Especially when you have guys on third base, less than two outs, we have to find ways to get them in."
The Yankees went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. They loaded the bases with none out in the second and had a man on third with one out in the third and seventh but were unable to score.
"We have to find a way to get it done," said Joe Girardi, whose team outhit the Royals 8-5. "You can't win games like this. We had a ton of opportunities. You get a great performance from Kuroda and we didn't do anything with it."
Appropriately, after Ichiro Suzuki reached second with none out in the ninth on a single and Greg Holland's wild pitch, the Yankees couldn't tie it. Brian Roberts flied to left, pinch hitter Mark Teixeira grounded out and Brett Gardner struck out.
"We have to find a way to get those guys in [with runners in scoring position] and we really haven't been doing a really good job of it," said Gardner, who tripled with one out in the seventh and was stranded when Jeter grounded out with the infield in and Jacoby Ellsbury struck out looking. "It's not like we're trying to fail. It's not like we're not working hard or don't care. We take a lot of pride in what we do, and it's frustrating when you don't get the job done."
The Yankees did drive up James Shields' pitch count to 110 in his six innings, but that was about it. Shields (7-3, 3.44) allowed an unearned run, six hits and two walks and struck out eight. The Yankees were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position against him, stranding seven.
Kuroda (4-4, 4.12) gave up five hits in seven innings. He and Adam Warren combined to retire the final 14 Royals. "When you have your guy pitch the way Hiro did today, he deserves to get a win and we should get a win as a team, and we just didn't get it done," Roberts said. "Their guy on the mound is pretty good, too. He's got a job to do, we've got a job to do and he did it better than we did today."
The second inning exemplified the Yankees' afternoon. Yangervis Solarte led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch. Ichiro singled to left, putting runners at the corners, and Roberts worked a walk to load the bases. But Kelly Johnson struck out, first baseman Eric Hosmer turned Gardner's grounder into a forceout at the plate and Jeter struck out.
In the bottom of the inning, with two outs and no one on, Salvador Perez's single, Lorenzo Cain's RBI double and Mike Moustakas' RBI single gave the Royals a 2-0 lead. Solarte doubled in the sixth and eventually scored on Ichiro's grounder.
"It seems like when guys are scuffling, sometimes they scuffle in bunches," Jeter said. "And when you get hot, it seems like a lot of guys are hot, so these are times you have to keep swinging. You're usually not as bad as you look when things are going bad, just like you're usually not as good as you look when things are going good. It will turn around."