KANSAS CITY -- So, Derek Jeter, did you know the Yankees just went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position?
"Nope. I do now," the Yankees' captain said with a pained expression. "Thanks."
In what has to be one of the most frustrating losses any Yankees team has endured in a mighty long time, Jeter and his hapless teammates flailed away time after time, threw away opportunity after opportunity, squandered chance after chance before the whole mess finally devolved into an unsightly 2-1 loss to the Royals. Fittingly, Ichiro Suzuki was standing on third base representing what would have been the tying run when Kansas City closer Greg Holland struck out Brett Gardner for the final out.
The 1-for-17 performance matched the Yankees' worst batting average with RISP in a game over the past 40 seasons, with a minimum 15 at-bats. (Credit ESPN Stats & Information.)
Jeter and everyone else is puzzled by the high-dollar lineup's sudden inability to swing the bat.
"It happens," he said. "When guys are scuffling, sometimes it seems like you're scuffling in bunches. And when you get hot, it seems like a lot of guys are hot. So you have to keep swinging. That's the bottom line. Seems like it happens to most teams, or every team throughout the course of the year, but the only way you get out of it is to swing out of it, so you've got to continue to swing."
Squandered: If anyone has an answer for the Yankees' rapidly vanishing offense, they should call Joe Girardi at once. The skipper was at a loss after watching his lineup fail time after time with runners at second or third, or in some instances, second and third.
"Don't know," Girardi said. "Got to find a way to get it done. A ton of opportunities. Couple of times runner at third with less than two outs. You get a great performance by [starter Hiroki] Kuroda and we don't do anything with it."
The Yanks got their day rolling by loading the bases in the second inning with nobody out against a laboring James Shields. But they immediately went about making three straight outs. Gardner tripled with one out in the seventh and failed to score.
The Yankees put two runners on base in the first inning but did not get anything out of it. Their only run came when Yangervis Solarte doubled in the sixth and scored on Suzuki's groundout.
The natural inclination is to think everybody has begun pressing.
"What's pressing mean?" said Jeter, who fanned for the final out in the second inning and meekly grounded out with Gardner on third base in the seventh inning. "You try to get a hit. Everyone tries to get a hit all the time. But hey, guys on the other team, they've got a job to do, too. It's not like Shields is saying, 'Here you go, hit it, let me throw you a fastball down the middle.' Guys are making pitches. Sometimes they're going to be better than you. When you're scuffling, it's not always because you're pressing. Sometimes some guys are beating you. But you got to continue to work and hopefully your luck will change."
More waste: Kuroda pitched seven solid innings and allowed only two runs on five hits. It's the second straight start he has sparkled but the run-impoverished Yanks have lost. He and reliever Adam Warren combined to retire the last 14 Royals in a row.
"The biggest thing is the team lost, and that is disappointing," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "But I'm happy to go seven innings and keep the team in the game. I was on the mound thinking if I keep throwing there will be opportunities."
Did he offer any encouraging words to his teammates?
"No. There are going to be days like this throughout the long season," Kuroda said. "So just regroup and come back tomorrow."
Tribute to Zim: Before his first pitch, Shields made a gesture the Yankees would appreciate. The former Tampa Bay Ray wrote in the dirt, "Zimmer," in honor of the former Rays and Yankees coach who died last week.