Kansas City, Mo. Nobody in the Kansas City Royals’ clubhouse seems ready to bail on the season after a lousy week, much less a lousy series against the New York Yankees.
They might have last season, when they were a bunch of wide-eyed youngsters.
But after a 4-2 loss to the Yankees resulted in the first sweep of the Royals this season, the mood inside the home clubhouse Sunday was one of resolve moreso than despair — even though Kansas City has lost six of its last seven games.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Eric Hosmer said. “We’re right at the top of the division and we don’t want to try too much to break out of it. We know if we just show up and continue to play, we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”
After all, the Royals are still 18-16 as they depart for a nine-game road trip.
“We’re still right in the hunt, but it’s a long season,” said James Shields, who once led the Rays to the postseason. “I’ve experienced 11 games back going into September and making the playoffs, so anything can happen. There’s no panic here.”
It’s not as if the Royals have been blown out, either.
They lost 3-2 on Saturday and were done in by Robinson Cano’s two-run homer, a solo shot by Vernon Wells and some stingy pitching by the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda in Sunday’s series finale.
Kuroda (5-2) allowed only a sacrifice fly by the Royals’ Alex Gordon and an RBI groundout by Alcides Escobar over 72⁄3 innings. The right-hander at one point went 15 batters without allowing a hit to win for the fifth time in his last six decisions.
“Kuroda commanded the ball,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
David Robertson retired Billy Butler to end the Royals’ eighth-inning rally, and Mariano Rivera worked around a leadoff single in the ninth to remain perfect in 15 save opportunities.
Rivera has converted his last 29 chances against the Royals dating to Aug. 18, 1998, his longest active streak against any team. His only other blown save against them happened in 1996.
“It’s amazing. He just continues to do it,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Anyone wants to argue he’s not the greatest closer of all time, I don’t know who it is.”
Ervin Santana (3-2) gave up Cano’s two-run shot in the third inning, Wells’ solo homer two pitches later and an RBI single by Wells in the fifth. He departed with one out in the sixth and, after starting 5-1 in his career against the Yankees, lost his sixth straight decision.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today but I just tried to keep my team in the ballgame,” he said. “Just a couple of pitches. That’s how it is against the Yankees.”
The Royals struck first when Jarrod Dyson doubled leading off the game. He advanced to third on a bunt by Escobar and then scored on Gordon’s sacrifice fly.
That was all they’d get off Kuroda until the eighth inning.
New York pulled ahead in the third when Chris Stewart singled and Cano pounded the first pitch he saw over the bullpen in right field. It was his sixth career homer off Santana, two more than the All-Star second baseman has had against any other pitcher.
It was especially gratifying given his history at the K.
Cano was the captain of the AL squad for last year’s Home Run Derby in Kansas City, and had said he would choose Butler for his team. But he went back on his word, and was booed lustily by the Royals’ home crowd while failing to hit a single home run himself.
The jeers continued during the All-Star game, and didn’t let up when the Yankees returned to town for their only visit this season — at least, until Cano finally went deep.
Wells, who hit the go-ahead two-run homer on Saturday, followed with a solo shot, and then drove in Brett Gardner with a single down the third-base line in the fifth inning.
That was all the Yankees needed for their fifth straight win.
Notes: Royals 3B Mike Moustakas committed an error in his second straight game. ... GM Dayton Moore and Royals Hall of Famer George Brett honored Rivera prior to the game with a donation to the church where his wife, Clara, is the pastor. Rivera intends to retire after the season. ... Royals RHP Luis Mendoza starts today at the Angels. The Yankees visit Cleveland for a doubleheader with RHP David Phelps on the mound in Game 1 and LHP Vidal Nuno starting Game 2.