KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This loss was more familiar, at least. For the most part, anyway.
The Royals got shut down Saturday by the old guard, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, in a 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
Pettitte is now unbeaten against the Royals in 14 starts dating to Sept. 4, 2000. He allowed just two run and five hits in seven innings.
“I felt good,” he said. “No doubt. Obviously I felt like I had a little better command of my stuff. I had a good cutter tonight and was locating pretty good.”
And nobody has a better cutter than Rivera, who closed the game with his 28th straight successful save conversion against the Royals, a streak that dates to Aug. 18, 1998. David Robertson provided a one-inning bridge.
The Royals made it interesting against Rivera when Salvy Perez poked a two-out double to right. That brought Jarrod Dyson into the game as a pinch-runner.
Mike Moustakas pulled a 2-0 pitch just foul down the right-field line before flying out to left.
“I hit it,” he said, “and it stayed pretty straight until the end when it came a little farther right. He’s the best closer to ever play the game. Hats off to him for making his pitches, and hats off to Pettitte for keeping them in the game."
The Yankees thumped the Royals 11-6 in Friday’s series opener by getting big contributions from a collection of fill-ins and spare parts for a lineup missing Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.
And, yes, the big blow Saturday was a two-run homer by Vernon Wells, whom the Yankees acquired March 26 from the Los Angeles Angels. It came with two outs in the fifth inning.
Wells crushed a 3-1 fastball from James Shields, who can’t seem to buy a break. The other run against Shields scored on a Moustakas throwing error in the third inning.
It wasn’t the homer that bothered Shields as much as opening the inning by hitting Chris Stewart, the No. 9 hitter, with a 1-2 change-up.
“Absolutely,” Shields said. “The home runs are the home runs, but you can’t give Stewart a free base right there. On a 1-2 count, you can’t hit him right there.
“To me, that’s unacceptable. He’s the nine-hole hitter. I had him in a 1-2 count. You’ve got the leadoff hitter (Brett Gardner) and (Robinson) Cano coming up. That’s unacceptable.”
Shields retired Gardner and Cano but couldn’t get Wells.
“It wasn’t that bad of a pitch,” Shields said. “It was middle away on 3-1. He’s a pretty good hitter. You fall behind in the count on any good hitter, and they’re going to put a swing on it.”
Shields is now 2-3 through eight starts despite a 2.48 ERA. He turned over leads in two of his no-decisions and yielded a total of six earned runs over 23 innings in his three losses.
“You’ve got to pitch better,” he said. “That’s it.”
Pettitte improved to 4-2, while Rivera is 14 for 14 this season in save opportunities. The loss was the fifth in six games for the Royals, who fell to 18-15 and into third place in the American League Central Division.
It was still scoreless when the Yankees opened the third inning with a double by Chris Nelson past a diving Moustakas at the third-base line. Stewart popped a bunt to Shields, and Gardner followed with a pop to third.
Shields should have been out of the inning when Cano hit a routine grounder to third, but Moustakas threw wildly for an error that enabled Nix to score for a 1-0 lead.
“Shields got a ground ball when he needed it,” Moustakas said. “I just threw it away. Nothing really (different) about it. I just threw it away... Our guy did a fantastic job. I made a mistake, and that’s what cost us the game.”
Not quite. It was a costly error, but the Royals answered after Elliot Johnson led off their third with a single on a swinging bunt that refused to go foul.
Johnson stole second and moved to third on Alcides Escobar’s slow chopper to third. The Yankees shortened their infield at the corners, but Lorenzo Cain hit a grounder to short that produced the tying run.
The Royals took the lead when Billy Butler led off the fourth with a no-doubt homer to the left of dead center -- estimated at 414 feet -- for a 2-1 lead.
It was Butler’s 500th career RBI, but the lead didn’t last.
Shields started the fifth by hitting Stewart with that 1-2 change-up, which marked the fourth time in five innings that the Yankees put their leadoff hitter on base.
This time it hurt because it got Wells to the plate.
Pettitte, Robertson and Rivera tenaciously protected the slim lead by retiring 12 straight Royals before Perez’s two-out double in the ninth.
“Putting up two runs in that game?” Butler said. “Obviously, we haven’t given Shields much run support all of this year. In a game like that, we’ve got to give him a little more.”