NEW YORK | It could have been worse, actually. The Royals could have found a way to stick Zack Greinke with a loss Saturday afternoon in this blunderthon 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees that required 13 innings.
It was plenty bad enough, though.
The Royals wasted a terrific outing by Greinke by conjuring up a toxic mix of wasted opportunities, mental errors and physical mistakes. They also squandered a fine relief effort by Robinson Tejeda
That the Yankees needed all of it to eke out a one-run victory suggests this really might be the year they miss the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
The end came — after 4 hours, 53 minutes — when Brett Gardner poked a full-count fastball from Jeff Fulchino through the left side for a game-winning single.
Robinson Cano scored from second ahead of the throw from David DeJesus. Cano reached on a one-out single and went to second on Ivan Rodriguez’s grounder to third.
The Royals recalled Fulchino, 0-1, from Class AAA Omaha before Friday’s series opener in order to add an extra arm to their bullpen.
David Robertson, 3-0, got the victory. He was seventh pitcher used by the Yankees.
There was nothing tainted about the winning run. The loss itself, though, amounted to a return gift after the Royals won 4-3 on Friday on a wild pitch by Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning.
Rivera atoned Saturday. He went six up, six down in two innings after entering to start the 10th with the ball never leaving the infield.
Greinke deserved better in his first start since returning from a five-game suspension for a retaliatory hit on Chicago’s Nick Swisher. He worked six scoreless innings before yielding two unearned runs in the seventh.
Greinke escaped a bases-loaded threat with no outs in the fourth inning but couldn’t overcome multiple defensive breakdowns before exiting with two outs in the seventh. He settled for a no-decision and his 17th quality start in 25 outings.
There were other good elements. Reliever Robinson Tejeda was also terrific in 2 2/3 hitless innings. Mitch Maier had three hits. Joel Peralta bounced back from his three-homer disaster Thursday in Chicago by working two scoreless innings.
Don’t be fooled.
This game should never have reached extra innings. Greinke should have breezed to an easy victory. It didn’t happen, and it was a team effort.
Some highlights from the first five hitters in the lineup:
•David DeJesus got doubled off second base on a soft liner with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and struck out into another double play in the ninth with Maier running after a leadoff single.
•Mike Aviles’ zero-for-six included a weak grounder to third on a first-pitch swing with runners at second and third with no outs in the seventh.
•Mark Teahen was thrown out at third while attempting to advance on a grounder to short in the sixth inning and was slow to field Cano’s two-out drive in the seventh. A likely double turned into a triple, which produced the tying run on a wild pitch.
•José Guillen hit into two double plays and stranded six runners, including four in scoring position with less than two outs.
•Alex Gordon hit a homer but ignited the Yankees’ two-run seventh by committing a double error on Alex Rodriguez’s leadoff grounder.
To be fair, the Yankees’ list of transgressors is just as long. Check the online versions of the New York papers for a full accounting.
Yankees starter Sidney Ponson gave up two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings before departing with runners at second and third.
Ponson dominated the Royals earlier this season while pitching for the Rangers. He outdueled Greinke for a 2-1 victory on May 1 at Texas.
Gordon opened the second inning with a slicing homer to left. It was his 14th of the season, which leaves his one shy of his total last year as a rookie.
Greinke retired the first nine hitters before finding trouble in the fourth.
Johnny Damon led off with a hard grounder that skipped through second baseman Esteban German for a single. Damon went to second when Derek Jeter grounded a single through the right side.
Bobby Abreu’s single into center loaded the bases with no outs.
Greinke struck out Alex Rodriguez on a borderline called strike before getting Jason Giambi to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Royals extended their lead to 2-0 in the sixth despite Teahen’s base-running error after a leadoff double. Teahen was an easy out at third when he tried to advance on Guillen’s grounder to short.
Ponson threw away the gift by loading the bases with successive walks to Gordon and Ross Gload before Esteban German delivered a sacrifice fly to deep right.
Gordon’s double error — fielding and throwing — allowed Alex Rodriguez to reach second base on a soft leadoff grounder to third in the New York seventh. Giambi followed with a walk.
Greinke nearly escaped again. Nearly.
He induced a double-play grounder from Xavier Nady, which included a fine turn by Aviles, who moved to second to start the inning after Tony Peña entered the game as a defensive replacement.
But Cano ripped a 3-1 fastball into the right-center gap that went for a triple when Teahen was slow to play the ball. It should have been a double, and the extra base proved costly when Greinke threw a wild pitch on his first offering to Ivan Rodriguez.
The inning continued when Rodriguez reached on an error by Peña. Gardner’s bloop single to center moved Rodriguez to second and finished Greinke.
Ramon Ramirez preserved the tie by striking out Damon.