Unit goes distance in losing effort vs. KC

Unit goes distance in losing effort vs. KC

KANSAS CITY -- For eight innings, Randy Johnson glared in at batters and dug his right heel into the mound and induced out after out. He pitched well enough to win most games.

Unfortunately, the Yankees' offense remained silent for those eight innings, banging out just five hits without scoring a run. They came alive, a little bit, in the ninth -- Bernie Williams hit a two-out solo home run -- but had no answer for a youthful and frustratingly effective Royals pitching staff.

The result: A 3-1 Yankees' loss, their fourth straight. Afterward, Joe Torre closed the clubhouse doors and gave his team a talking to that Alex Rodriguez would only say "wasn't a pat on the [rear end]"

It would be hard to argue that the chat was undeserved. The Yankees have, after all, dropped a pair to the Royals -- who own baseball's worst record -- and scored just four runs in the process, hardly the manner in which they wanted to begin their four-city, 12-game road trip.

"I didn't like what I saw," Torre said. "I'm unhappy and I certainly won't go as far as saying I'm discouraged, because we're on the heels of feeling pretty [darn] good about ourselves, as recently as Friday.

"I didn't see a lot of patience. It just didn't feel like we were having good at-bats. I'm trying to find a different way to say it, but we didn't make [the Royals] work like we normally do. It's something I'm surprised about and certainly it's no fun watching it.

Johnson certainly pitched well enough to get that feeling back. He worked eight innings -- his second complete game this season, though both have come in losing efforts -- and allowed three runs on nine scattered hits, struck out seven and walked one.

Though his pitch count had reached 104, Torre thought he could have worked deeper into the game had it not ended.

"I thought Randy pitched well," Torre said. "He sustained ... he kept the game manageable."

Indeed, after giving up a two-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the third, Johnson didn't allow a run over his final five innings of work. That performance should have been good enough to win. But the Yankees just could not figure out Royals starter D.J. Carrasco or relievers Steve Stemle and Mike MacDougal. When the Yankees did manage to reach base -- on seven hits and three walks -- they were normally stranded without advancing.

The notable baserunning error, however, came in the fourth. The Yankees trailed, 3-0, with Jason Giambi at second and Ruben Sierra at the plate. Sierra drilled the first pitch and sent it all of 60 feet before it bounced into Carrasco's glove. Rather than toss to first for the easy out, Carrasco looked to second base, where Giambi had strayed in an effort to score on a possible single. Frozen, Giambi just stared at Carrasco as the pitcher sprinted over to tag him out.

"I know what's going through Jason's mind," Torre said. "You think you're going to score on a single -- then the ball is hit through the middle, the pitcher catches it and you're stuck. He's not the first one to be caught like that, and he won't be the last.

"We've got to think better than we think."

Following that gaffe, of course, Williams knocked the single that would have scored Giambi. The Yankees still had 15 outs left at that point, but the mood had been set, a mood that the Yankees want to turn before departing for Minneapolis on Thursday.

"It's a mood that has to change a little bit, obviously," Johnson said after picking up his fourth loss against five wins. "To lose two out of three against Boston and then to come on a road trip and lose the first game, I wanted to turn that around today. You need to make the pitches when you need to make them and do the little things."

Torre said it in even fewer words: "We look flat."

Matt LaWell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.