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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's something about a Yankees-Royals game that makes Mother Nature cry.
Maybe she's nostalgic for the days when the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals played games that really meant something. And maybe she's just sickened by what this rivalry has degenerated into.
Six times they have played this season, and three times the proceedings were interrupted by rain.
Over a three-day span in July back in the Bronx, the festivities were halted twice, once for an hour and 25 minutes and the second time for 2:32.
But this time, the old lady kicked up the biggest fuss of all. The Yankees and Royals started this one Friday night at 7:10 local time and finished up at a quarter of one Saturday morning, 2:55 of baseball and 2:41 of not baseball.
And unlike those other two meetings, this one the Yankees lost 4-3 on a home run hit in the fifth inning by Billy Butler some 3½ hours before the last out was finally made. And by the time it ended, only about 2,000 of the crowd of 30,680 were still around to see it.
|"It was just kind of a weird night," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.|
It was a game nobody really wanted to play anymore as the second rain delay dragged on -- the game was halted after the top of the third for a brief 31-minute intermission before the whopping 2:10 break after the fifth, a delay that lasted a minute longer than the entire Mets-Phillies game -- and yet one the Yankees couldn't bear to give away to a team that is 20 games under .500 and 18 games behind in the American League Central.
"You just try to find a way to get the motor started again and sometimes it's tough, especially when you've got some older guys who get a little more stiff a little more easily," Lance Berkman said.
"It's tough. It seems like every year there's one of these games where it's gonna be brutal, you're gonna sit around forever and then try to come back and re-establish some momentum. There's a lot of mental challenges in the game of baseball and this is certainly one of them."
Told the Yankees and Royals had just played a game very much like this one six days before he arrived in a trade, Berkman just rolled his eyes. "Well, thank goodness I missed it," he said. "Brutal."
The Yankees spent their time watching the Red Sox and Rangers play an 11-inning nail-biter. They also played some cards and, as Berkman said, "just tried to keep from eating everything in the kitchen."
But there was good news, too. The temperature dropped from 98 degrees at first pitch to a quite pleasant 73 at last pitch. No one suffered heat exhaustion, and keeping hydrated was hardly a problem. And once Joe Girardi gave starter Dustin Moseley the rest of the night off, the Yankees' bullpen performed quite well.
In fact, Butler's home run, a blast that curled just inside the right-field foul pole and caromed back off Austin Kearns' head, was the last hit Kansas City would get all night.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, it was also the last hit the Royals would need.
"We just didn't get the hit when we needed to," Girardi said. "It was just kind of a weird night."
Moseley didn't pitch all that badly, actually, especially when he returned after the first delay to pitch two strong innings before grooving the 2-1 fastball that Butler hit for the home run that rang the pipe and Kearns' bell and broke a 3-3 tie.
"I didn't think he had his breaking ball early," Girardi said. "But then he seemed to find it."
The Royals had taken a 3-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run double by Yuniesky Betancourt and a sac fly by Jason Kendall, and would have had more if Brett Gardner had not gunned down Gregor Blanco in the first inning.
"I was just missing with everything," Moseley (2-2) said. "Everything was elevated and I was getting into bad counts, and when you don't have overpowering stuff, it gets you into trouble."
But the Yankees scored three of their own in the third on RBI singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and an RBI double by Berkman.
At that point, the heavens protested, rain cascaded out of a sky that was straight out of "The Wizard of Oz," and the game was halted for the first time.
But just 29 minutes after the game resumed, the rain came down again, this time accompanied by thunder and lightning. No less than three times, the grounds crew covered the field, peeled off the tarp, then re-covered it. They did everything but dance to "YMCA." Finally, at 11:30 p.m. -- 12:30 a.m. New York time -- the game resumed again.
"This is where the Doppler weather radar has really messed baseball up," Berkman said. "They just won't cancel games, you know what I'm saying? They can see the future and know when the rain is going to stop. Hey, I didn't want to go out there and be a lightning rod."
In truth, there was very little spark in the Yankees' lineup after the second delay. They managed a single by Kearns in the sixth and then nothing until Derek Jeter and A-Rod singled in the ninth off closer Joakim Soria to put the tying run on third, but Cano bounced to second to mercifully end the game nearly six hours after it began.
"I wasn't sure we were going to be able to finish this one," Girardi said. "But I think [crew chief] Gary Cederstrom did a good job of sticking it out and getting us through it."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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