NEW YORK — Validation for any breakthrough, whenever it comes for the Royals, will likely require proof from the South Bronx. For here, more than anywhere, the Royals have been absolute punching bags in their sorry decline following the 1994 strike.
Nothing changed Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees. Some almosts, sure. But the Royals often seem to generate almosts at Yankee Stadium. Usually little else except frustration.
Lots of frustration.
That continued, too, in this latest loss when Chris Getz was called out on a check swing by umpire Ed Hickox with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning. That was after reliever David Robertson struck out Alcides Escobar.
Getz argued for a bit — politely, presumably, since he didn't get ejected. He also got away with slamming his helmet to the ground as he walked toward the dugout. And didn't get ejected for that either.
"He was obviously very confident with the call," Getz said. "I was hoping he would have checked (with third-base umpire Alfonso Marquez). In that situation, I think it was a little too close for him to call with that pitch where the catcher was located."
The Royals believed catcher Russell Martin moved on the pitch and, possibly, blocked Hickox's view. That's why the sought an appeal. Hickox stood firm.
"If the umpire gets a good look at it," manager Ned Yost agreed, "he doesn't have to check on that ball. We just questioned whether he got a good look at it because the catcher came up into his line of vision."
That was the Royals' last best chance. They managed little in the eighth against Joba Chamberlain or in the ninth against Mariano Rivera, who converted his 25th consecutive save opportunity against the Royals.
Rivera's streak dates to May 2, 1999.
Here's the grimmer math: The Royals are now 14-55 at the Yankee Stadiums, old and new, since 1994. The three-game series continues tonight before concluding Thursday.
Yankees veteran Freddy Garcia (2-2) carried a 3-1 lead into the seventh before exiting after yielding a single to Jeff Francoeur and a walk to Eric Hosmer.
Robertson replaced Garcia and retired Mike Aviles on a fly to center before Francoeur stole third (on a close play). Robertson then loaded the bases with one out by walking Matt Treanor, but the Royals couldn't produce the clutch hit.
Escobar jumped ahead 2-0 in the count before Robertson battled back for a strikeout. Then the Getz strikeout.
"I wish (Hickox) would have checked," Getz said. "I'm not saying I didn't go. I just wished he would have checked. It's just too bad it went down that way. Obviously, it was a big situation, and you don't know what would have happened if that at-bat had continued."
Oh, there was more.
The Royals had runners at first and second with one out in the fourth. Garcia struck out Escobar, but Getz pulled a sinking liner into right field that turned into the third out when Nick Swisher made a diving catch.
"I knew I hit it sharply," Getz said. "It was a nice play by him. What are you going to do?"
It the ball gets past Swisher, it's at least one run, probably two and possibly an inside-the-park homer. Instead, nothing.
So it goes. Still.
The Royals, at 18-17, remain above .500 despite losses in four of their last six games. Their road losing streak, which began last month with a 0-6 swing through Texas and Cleveland, is up to seven.
Kyle Davies fell to 1-5 after again pitching, as seems to be his norm lately, just poorly enough. He allowed three runs in five-plus innings after producing quality starts in three of his four previous outings.
The Royals got their only run on Melky Cabrera's leadoff homer in the fourth inning. The crowd of 41,275 offered warm greeting to the ex-Yankee throughout the game and even responded with some cheers on the homer.
Alex Rodriguez broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run single with two outs in the fifth inning. It was a ground ball up the middle that squeezed past Escobar on the left side of second base. It was enough, though.
"The whole game, for me," Davies said, "was I was 0-2 to (Mark) Teixeira and then hit him. Runners on second and third with two outs, and I had him 0-2. I ran the count to 2-2 and then hit him. Then A-Rod doesn't come up and get the base-hit up the middle."
Brett Gardner drew a one-out walk in the fifth and went to second on Derek Jeter's single into center. Gardner reached third on Curtis Granderson's fly to center before Jeter stole second.
Davies loaded the bases by hitting Teixeira, which brought Rodriguez to the plate with a chance to tie Lou Gehrig's all-time record of 23 grand slams in a career. Rodriguez already had one memorable homer against Davies: No. 500 in his career.
Rodriguez settled this time for a two-run single on a grounder up the middle.
"The difference in the game," Yost said, "was they got the bases loaded and put the ball in play. We got the bases loaded and didn't. That's the game."