KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It took too long, as it turned out Thursday night, for our Midwest sweat box to heat up the Royals. Then again, the imposing girth of Yankees starter CC Sabathia also factors into the matter.
The last thing a starving attack needs is a heaping portion of CC and, for eight innings the Royals managed little before their ninth-inning comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss at Kauffman Stadium.
Sabathia (15-5) yielded just one run in the first eight innings before tiring. David Robertson gave up two hits and permitted two inherited runners to score in the ninth before securing a save by striking out Jason Kendall with runners at first and third.
So it ends up as a fifth straight loss for the Royals, who dropped to a season-high 21 games under .500 at 47-68. They also now occupy undisputed possession of last place in the American League Central when Cleveland beat Baltimore.
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Almost. That's all it was.
Sabathia worked himself into a ninth-inning jam by surrendering one-out singles to Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles before getting the second out when Mitch Maier hit a fielder's-choice grounder to first.
That came on Sabathia's 110th pitch, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi called on Robertson and nearly saw the game slip away.
Willie Bloomquist lined a two-run double into the right-center gap, and took third on Wilson Betemit's squib single up the third-base line. Kendall fouled off two 2-2 pitches before swinging through a breaking ball.
OK, it was hot. Officially, it was 94 degrees when Bruce Chen delivered the game's first pitch to Derek Jeter at 7:10 p.m. The heat index was 106.
That's nothing new around here, but it comes in contrast to an average temperature of less than 67 degrees at first pitch during the Royals' just-completed 2-7 tumble through Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim.
Royals center fielder Gregor Blanco, who rejoined the club before the game after the birth of his son early Wednesday morning in Atlanta, exited in the fourth inning because of heat exhaustion and dizzy spells.
Blanco received intravenous treatment to boost his fluid levels and should be available tonight when the four-game series continues.
New York nicked Chen (7-6) for single runs in the second, third and fourth innings, which left the Royals with an uphill climb against Sabathia. Their only run before the ninth came on Aviles' two-out RBI single in the fourth.
Sabathia beat the Royals for the 17th time in 27 decisions over 34 career starts. The only active pitcher with more victories over the Royals is Mark Buehrle of the White Sox with 21.
Chen gave up three runs and eight hits in five-plus innings before departing after Marcus Thames' leadoff single in the sixth. The Yankees also scored an unearned run in the seventh against Kanekoa Texeira, one of their ex-farmhands.
That proved to be the game-winner.
The Yankees opened the scoring after Robinson Cano worked a one-out walk in the second inning. Two-out singles by Austin Kearns and Curtis Granderson produced the run.
Chen allowed another run after New York opened the third inning with ground-ball singles by Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher. Mark Teixeira's sacrifice fly produced the run.
The Royals managed two singles in the first against Sabathia, and two more in the third. Both times, they came up empty. Billy Butler ended the second threat by grounding into a double play.
The Yankees extended their lead to 3-0 on Austin Kearns' one-out homer in the fourth inning.
Gordon's two-out double in the fourth led to the Royals' only run. He just beat the throw home from Granderson when Aviles grounded with a single into center.
An error by Betemit on Jeter's leadoff grounder to third led to an unearned run in the Yankees' seventh. It didn't seem like much at the time.