How far could the Yankees carry the momentum from Thursday night's walk-off victory over the Red Sox?
Not far at all, it turns out.
James Shields and Wade Davis combined on a three-hitter Friday night as the Kansas City Royals beat the Yankees, 1-0, before 36,284 at Yankee Stadium.
Kansas City's run against losing pitcher Michael Pineda (3-4) was unearned because of a one-out error by third baseman Chase Headley in the third inning. The game ended with Carlos Beltran looking at a called third strike -- a familiar sight for New York baseball fans.
Just a night earlier, the Yankees were jumping around the field after Mark Teixeira and Headley homered off Boston closer Koji Uehara in the ninth inning to turn a one-run deficit into a thrilling 5-4 victory.
The players talked about how the comeback was proof that they have what it takes to make a run for a playoff spot. But lost in the fine print was that the Yankees did not gain any ground on the Tigers with the win.
Friday night's loss left them trailing the Mariners by 4½ games and the Tigers by four games for the AL's second wild card. The Yankees, who are tied with the Indians and a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays, have 23 games left. "We're going to have to win most of them," a somber Joe Girardi said.
They had a chance for more ninth-inning magic. Shields (13-7) had retired 11 in a row when Derek Jeter stroked a one-out single and was replaced by pinch runner Antoan Richardson.
Royals manager Ned Yost called on Davis instead of closer Greg Holland, who was held out because of triceps tightness.
Richardson, a September call-up who was making his second big-league pinch-running appearance, stole second on a 2-and-1 pitch that went to the backstop with Brett Gardner batting. But Davis came back from down 3-and-1 to strike out Gardner with a 98-mph fastball. He then caught Beltran looking at a 98-mph fastball on the outside corner to earn his first save of the season.
"I was basically looking for a good pitch to hit," said Beltran, who made the last out of the 2006 NLCS for the Mets by looking at Adam Wainwright's curveball with the bases loaded. "But at the end of the day, he was able to win the battle."
Shields, whom the Yankees battered for six runs in 62/3 innings on Aug. 25, stopped the Yankees' momentum cold from the get-go. He retired the first 11 batters before Gardner doubled in the fourth.
Shields allowed three hits in 81/3 innings, did not walk a batter and struck out six. In seven innings, Pineda allowed three hits and walked none with four strikeouts. He deserved better.
With one out in the third, the Royals' Alcides Escobar sent a grounder to Headley's left that he played awkwardly and watched go off the thumb of his glove and into short leftfield. Escobar hustled into second on the two-base error, beating Gardner's throw. Two pitches later, Nori Aoki lined an RBI single to center.
"Tough one," Headley said. "A play that I'd like to make. Just didn't happen. It was early in the game, but you knew from the first time through the order that [Shields] had his good stuff. You're never resigned to the fact that that's going to cost you, but obviously it did, and it's a tough way to lose a game."