KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It would have been unrealistic, if not unfair, to expect Michael Pineda to come close to duplicating his last start.
Pineda was almost historically good last Sunday at the Stadium, striking out 16 Orioles in seven innings, two shy of Ron Guidry's franchise single-game strikeout record.
"His stuff today was electric," catcher Brian McCann said after that 6-2 victory. "Almost every time he takes the mound, it is."
Not Friday night.
Though not awful, Pineda didn't have anywhere near his best stuff against the American League's top team, departing after 51/3 innings of a 12-1 pounding at the hands of the Royals in front of 34,584 at Kauffman Stadium.
The Yankees (21-16), losers of four straight for the first time this season, were completely overmatched in all facets against the defending American League champs.
The Royals (23-13) showcased a far deeper lineup, one that produced 17 hits -- including four by Mike Moustakas and three each by Lorenzo Cain (five RBIs) and Omar Infante -- solid pitching and superb defense. The Yankees, who had five hits and have scored six runs in their last four games, displayed none of those things.
Pineda, who entered with a 2.72 ERA and an absurd strikeout-to-walk ratio of 54/3, fell to 5-1 with a 3.31 ERA. He allowed a season-high 10 hits, managed only one strikeout and didn't walk a batter.
"The slider was not working really good tonight,'' he said. "It happens sometimes. I was feeling pretty good today and I tried to fight and compete on the mound, but it was not my day. I felt great before the game. I went out there and did the best. Sometimes these days happen. I'm keeping my head up, will continue to work and be ready for the next time."
Said Joe Girardi, "I didn't think he had his slider tonight. His slider was not sharp and it hurt him. He did a really good job keeping us in it. Then the inning [the sixth] got away from us. We gave them an extra out and that really cost us."
Pineda trailed 2-1 entering the sixth but was knocked out and charged with the first three runs in a six-run inning that gave the Royals an 8-1 lead.
Alex Gordon doubled and scored on Infante's one-out triple. No. 9 hitter Paulo Orlando ended Pineda's night with a line-drive single up the middle that made it 4-1. Cain had a two-run single off Justin Wilson and Kendrys Morales and Gordon added RBI singles.
"It's tough,'' Girardi said. "It's an ugly inning and it's unfortunate but it's only one game and we have to bounce back tomorrow."
The Royals erupted for four more runs in the seventh against righty Jose Ramirez, called up from Triple-A earlier in the day. He retired the first two batters before Moustakas had an RBI double, Cain singled him home and Morales doubled in two runs.
The Yankees' bats, quiet in the previous three games, stayed that way against soft-tossing Royals starter Chris Young (3-0, 0.94), a former Met. The 6-10 righthander allowed one run, four hits and two walks in 52/3 innings.
Said Girardi, "it's just what happens with offenses. Teams go through little times where they don't hit as well as others. It's no fun when you're going through it, but our guys will come out . . . Hitting's going to come and go. Right now it's not here and we have to find it."
Doubles by Moustakas and Cain gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the first. In the third, Moustakas tripled to rightfield and scored on Cain's sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Alex Rodriguez doubled to right-center in the fourth and went to third when Mark Teixeira lined a single off the glove of a diving Alcides Escobar at shortstop. McCann's sacrifice fly made it 2-1.
The Yankees had wasted a chance to give Pineda the lead before he took the mound. After Jacoby Ellsbury popped out to short, Brett Gardner drove a 1-and-0 fastball into the gap in right-center for his first triple of the season. He was stranded, however, as Rodriguez flied out to short center -- not close to being deep enough for Gardner to tag -- and Teixeira flied to short right.