New York got one run back in the eighth, but left two runners on base, then scored once more before leaving a runner on when Jason Giambi grounded into a double play to end the game.
Jeter said he was grateful that every Royal he spoke to offered congratulations after he rolled a little single just up the line from home plate for hit No. 2,000 in the fourth inning. But his team was losing at the time, and even after it took a lead, it was unable to maintain it as the bullpen just couldn't hold on to a lead.
Angel Berroa slugged a thee-run homer off losing pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, the third of five Yankees pitchers, after two were out in the top of the eighth inning. The hit, which kicked off the edge of left fielder Melky Cabrera's glove as he jumped in an effort to make the catch, broke a 4-4 tie.
"Hanging slider," said Farnsworth, who has run hot and cold this season.
What irked Farnsworth was that he issued a two-out walk just before Berroa smacked the 1-0 pitch. Matt Stairs had hit a one-out single to get the winning rally started.
"I slipped a little bit," Farnsworth said of his ball-four pitch. "But you've still got to get the guy out."
Manager Joe Torre said the Yankees had a chance to win and wondered if Farnsworth and reliever Scott Proctor, who gave up the game-tying run in the seventh, might be a bit tired.
"We just didn't locate in the seventh and eighth innings," Torre said. "It didn't look like they were able to do what they wanted to do The thing that worries me is they've been getting a lot of work. We've been in close games where we've used them a lot and I'm sure that had something to do with it."
While it was Farnsworth who gave up the big hit, the Yankees bullpen didn't put on one of its most distinguished performances. The bullpen was unable to protect the 4-3 lead the offense had provided it in the bottom of the sixth.
The Royals, who've been battered and beaten nearly every time they've taken the field this season, got to Yankees starter Mike Mussina for three runs in a second inning in which the right-hander threw 39 pitches.
Kansas City had been outscored 100-49 by the Yankees in a 14-game losing streak at Yankee Stadium that began on Aug. 7, 2002. But Mussina, who now has three no-decisions since he improved to 6-1 with five straight victories, gave up a leadoff home run to Reggie Sanders that started his troubles in the third inning.
Mussina retired the next two Royals, but Tony Graffanino bounced a single up the middle and Berroa and Paul Bako, batting Nos. 8 and 9 in the Royals' order, drew the only two walks Mussina issued over the six innings he pitched.
Shane Costa then hit a soft liner that fell in front of Bernie Williams in right field and two runs scored.
Cabrera may have saved Mussina more trouble in the third when he made a spectacular diving catch of a sinking liner hit into the gap in left center by Doug Mientkiewicz, the leadoff batter in the inning.
New York finally began to chip away at winner Scott Elarton, who took the mound with an 0-5 record, in the fourth.
Jeter had hit the ball on the nose when he flied out to right on a first-pitch swing in the first inning. The ball he hit for the 2,000th hit of his career wasn't nearly as dramatic.
Jeter swung and nubbed a 1-1 pitch that squirted into the dirt about one foot into the grass on the third base side. Bako, the catcher, jumped on the ball and threw it wildly over Mientkiewicz's head. Jeter reached second and it took the official scorer about a minute to make a determination on the play.
Once the play was announced as a hit and an error, the 48,035 on hand, a throng that included Jeter's parents and golfer Tiger Woods, stood and gave the star a rousing ovation and yelled, "Jeter, Jeter, Jeter" while the quiet infielder raised his batting helmet to acknowledge the moment. His teammates lined the rail in front of the dugout and applauded.
Jeter further delighted the crowd by stealing third base, and two outs later brought his team to within 3-1 by scoring on a line-drive single to center by Alex Rodriguez.
Jeter was in the mix when the Yankees took their brief lead in a three-run sixth. Johnny Damon opened with a single to center off Elarton and Jeter worked Elarton for a walk. Gary Sheffield fouled out, but Giambi continued his assault on Royals pitching by lining a two-run double off the top of the fence in right-center field.
Rodriguez followed with a single to left on which Giambi took third. When the hit rolled beyond left fielder Emil Brown for an error, Giambi scored to put the Yankees in charge, 4-3.
The bullpen couldn't hold the edge. Mussina was through after six and Proctor lasted just one-third of an inning.