New York — Here's how upside down everything is for the New York Yankees: They lost a game because Mariano Rivera lost his control.
Rivera's first wild pitch of the season - and second in six years - 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 Yankees on Friday night.
"I've been a catcher, a broadcaster, a coach, a manager - I can't remember him throwing a wild pitch," New York skipper Joe Girardi said. "You never see it."
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.
With a 3-2 count on Johnny Damon, pinch-runner Justin Christian was inexplicably picked off first base for the first out of the bottom of the ninth, 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.
"Soria stayed with it, which is tough to do in that situation, especially in this venue," Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
Esteban German doubled with one out in the top of 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.
"It was a sinker. I was trying to get a groundball. It just happened," Rivera said.