Yanks fall to Royals on Jeter's special day

Captain goes 1-for-3 after tribute, but lack of offense, two errors cost NY

Yanks fall to Royals on Jeter's special day

NEW YORK -- After all the pageantry, nostalgia and ballyhoo that surrounded "Derek Jeter Day" at Yankee Stadium, the captain punctuated his speech during a pregame ceremony by reminding the sold-out crowd of 48,110: "We've got a game to play."

Jeter is trying to extend his career for as long as possible, and the Yankees want to make the final month of the regular season much more than an extended goodbye to the face of their franchise for two decades. To do so, they must string together wins in a hurry, so losses like Sunday's 2-0 defeat to the Royals are especially damaging.

The Yankees have said they are in playoff mode, all but admitting each game is becoming do-or-die. New York is 4 1/2 games back of Seattle's hold on the second American League Wild Card spot with just 21 games remaining on the Yankees' schedule.

"Obviously, we're chasing a few teams, but all we can control is winning games," Jeter said. "That's all I'm concerned with now."

Jeter prefers to not be reminded that his career is nearing the end, but moments like Sunday make that impossible.

His manager, Joe Girardi, has reminded him at times this season to try to enjoy the moment. Jeter insists that he has allowed himself to, and did on Sunday, but still he could not help but think of the game getting ready to start moments later.

"It's kind of tough to explain how you feel," Jeter said. "You appreciate all of the support, you appreciate the kind words that people are saying. At the same time, I'm still trying to play a game. It's difficult to juggle at times, but it's a very, very unique situation."

This most recent lackluster offensive showing featured the Yankees getting shut out for the second time in this three-game series and eighth time this season.

Both Friday's starter, Michael Pineda, and Sunday's starter, Shane Greene, were handed a loss despite not allowing an earned run. That had not happened to a Yankees pitcher before Friday since 2008.

Yankees pitchers surrendered just two earned runs all series, but still dropped two out of three games, losing 1-0 on Friday and 2-0 on Sunday. The Royals' offense has scuffled as well this year, but they were able to come away with the two wins thanks to some scrappy play and outstanding pitching.

"When you're not swinging the bats as well as we are, sometimes you've got to make things happen and put it in play, take the extra base, stuff like that," Royals left fielder Alex Gordon said. "You've got to create runs when you're not crushing the ball. I feel like our team can do that."

Greene was trying to rebound from the worst outing of his rookie season in his last start, when he allowed six runs on six hits and walked three in 2 2/3 innings and took a loss against Boston.

He was average on Sunday -- two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four in five innings -- and the Royals capitalized on a throwing error by Greene and a dropped fly ball by Carlos Beltran in right field to score their two runs.

Greene has now made three errors this season, all of them while attempting to throw to first base. Girardi argued that the runner, Nori Aoki, was in the baseline while Greene was trying to throw, but he was told the throw was too far off-line and the play was not close.

Royals starter Yordano Ventura was the latest pitcher to shut down the Yankees' offense, yielding three hits in six-plus innings, and New York was unable to take advantage of the four walks he issued. Wade Davis tossed a scoreless ninth to earn his second save and extend his scoreless-innings streak to 29 2/3 frames.

The Royals, who extended their lead in the American League Central to 2 1/2 games, can only wonder if they could have come away with a sweep had Saturday's starter Danny Duffy not injured his left shoulder after throwing just one pitch. Kansas City is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

New York fell to 3-3 on this nine-game homestand, with an off-day on Monday before beginning a three-game series with Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

"We got our last off-day tomorrow," Girardi said. "And then we got to win a whole lot."

They have to if they want to give Jeter a chance of adding another postseason memory.

Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.