KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Because of off days Monday and Thursday and some rainy weather in the nation’s capital, the Yankees entered Friday night having played a total of 5 ½ innings this week.
And spent one night inside of an airport.
“That was the worst night I’ve had in the big leagues,” 18-year veteran CC Sabathia said of the unscheduled slumber party Wednesday at Dulles International Airport. “That was bad.”
Indeed, if a team was ever ripe for the picking by an inferior opponent, it was the Yankees.
And while no one, including Sabathia, used Wednesday night’s events as an excuse, the Yankees were unquestionably flat in a 5-2 loss to the subpar Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
“I’m sure people will take that as part of it but in 162 [games], you’re not going to be great every night,” Aaron Boone said. “We didn’t get that big hit and we didn’t make a couple plays on defense that cost CC a lot of pitches. We were a little bit sloppy, but having a couple days off, I don’t think that’s necessarily the [cause].”
The Yankees (28-13), who came in having won 19 of 22, were shut out by the Royals (14-30) in the the first five innings before showing some life with two runs in the sixth.
Sabathia, shifted to Friday after his scheduled outing Wednesday night was postponed in Washington, wasn’t sharp, though his defense didn’t help. Victimized by two costly misplays by rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres, who had been mostly a stud in the field since his call-up April 22, Sabathia (2-1) allowed four runs (two earned), four hits and four walks in five innings.
“Sleeping on the plane was not good,” Sabathia said. “But I felt good with the rest.”
Royals righthander Jakob Junis (5-3) took a shutout into the sixth before being charged with two runs. He allowed those runs and seven hits in 5 1⁄3 innings.
Sabathia allowed a leadoff double to Whit Merrifield, who had three hits, in the first. Merrifield stole third with one out and Mike Moustakas walked. Salvador Perez hit a soft liner that Torres chased into short center but the ball bounced off his glove. Torres recovered to force Moustakas at second but Merrifield came in for a 1-0 lead.
The Royals added two unearned runs in the third, a 41-pitch inning for Sabathia that left him at 67 pitches. Kansas City had runners on second and third with none out and Sabathia looked as if he’d get out of it, retiring two straight. Even after walking Perez to load the bases, Sabathia looked fine when Jon Jay hit a routine grounder to second. Torres, however, bobbled it, the error allowing Abraham Almonte to score to make it 2-0. Hunter Dozier then worked a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-0.
Perez made it 4-0 with one out in the fifth on his sixth homer.
An RBI single by Neil Walker off Tim Hill and a sacrifice fly by Miguel Andujar in the sixth made it 4-2, but that was it. The final 10 Yankees were retired.
Speaking before Friday’s game, Boone and players mostly shrugged off the circumstances that caused the traveling party of 60 to sleep overnight in the aircraft or lounge near the gate.
“They were pros about it, there wasn’t a lot of griping,” Boone said. “I think the guys just kind of laughed it off.”
Pretty much every player and coach said it could have been worse and, in their lives in the minor leagues, they had experienced worse.
“I’ve sat on a bus for 14 hours going from Charleston to Lakewood ,” Aaron Judge said Friday afternoon of his days with the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League. “I really didn’t think much of it. I had a seat to myself, had plenty of leg room. I was fine.”