Dark days have returned to Yankeeland. Tonight's 3-1 loss is their third straight, and they've scored a single run in each game. That six-game winning streak is looking increasingly like a mirage. Worse than all that, the organization failed to win one for Chase That Golden Thunder, the Mariano Rivera of Yankee organization bat-dogs.
The Yankees had Kansas City starter James Shields on the ropes in the bottom of the first, with singles from four of the first five hitters. Sadly, the Yankees stayed true to recent form - all four hits were singles, and they were left with a terrifying (???) bases-loaded, one-out doom scenario. Third base coach Rob Thompson had a chance to send Ichiro on a base hit from Zoilo Almonte, but held him at third. Apparently he hasn't watched a game this season. Lyle Overbay looked completely over-matched in striking out...this came a few seconds after YES announcer John Flaherty posited that Thompson held Ichiro at third because one of "their most effective hitters" was coming up. Eduardo Nunez gave the ball a ride, but center fielder Lorenzo Cain tracked it down and made a fine play. Since the Yankees apparently needed another obstacle in their quest to score runs, Cain would go on to make three other hit-saving plays in center.
Shields gave up his fifth hit in the second inning (erased on an inning-ending double play) and walked two in the second (erased on another inning-ending double play). And that was it - no other Yankee would reach base as what looked to be a rough start from the right-hander turned inexorably into dominance. Shields is notorious for giving up runs early (opponents have scored in the first inning in 15 of his 19 starts), and then settling in. The Yankees played like a team that thought it would have numerous scoring chances. They didn't.
The Royals tied the game in the sixth thanks to a second-deck home run by number nine hitter David Lough. In case you've never heard of him, his name is pronounced "Low", as in "How low can the Yankees sink?" That certainly was the feeling among Yankee fans at that point in the game, but the team would sink even Lough-er next inning, as Billy Butler led off with a go-ahead dinger. CC would give up another run on two doubles in the eighth and pitch a 1-2-3 ninth, bringing his final line to 9 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 K. He actually lowered his ERA in this game, to 3.99, so there's that. Two Yankees starters have throw complete games this last time through the rotation, and they nearly lost both of those games, so there's that too.
Miscellaneous: Major League "umpire" Angel Hernandez made his presence felt from the first hitter with a string of iffy ball-strike calls, drawing the ire of both dugouts. He inspired Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long and Royals hitting coach George Brett to put aside their differences and join together to form a cross-dugout comedy troupe, the Anti-Angel Mime-Time Players. They synchronized their "coin flip / shoulder shrug" bit so perfectly that I felt compelled to log onto Baseball Reference and check as to whether or not they were ever teammates. It turns out Long was drafted by the Royals organization, but never made it to the bigs. Is it possible that a rehabbing George Brett met Kevin Long in the minor leagues in the early-nineties, bonded over their hatred of Angel Hernandez, and created that routine on the off chance they might one day become competing hitting coaches? And why won't the lame-stream media talk about this?
The Yankees now need to win their next two to ensure at least a four-game split with the Royals. The Twins can't get here soon enough. In the meantime: go hug your pets, people.