Struggling Yankees get swept by lowly Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. ” Joe Torre’s closed-door meeting had little effect on the New York Yankees.
The Kansas City Royals’ motley collection of restless rookies and recycled veterans won 5-2 on Thursday night to complete a stunning three-game sweep ” their first at home against the Yankees in 15 years.
A day after he sat down with his players to try to shake them out of their funk, Torre had another plan in mind.
“Just get on the plane and go to Minnesota tomorrow and have a normal get-ready-for-a-series meeting,” Torre said, slumping slightly in his chair. “Anything that had to be said was said (Wednesday night). We just have to do a better job and come back with a better results.”
The Yankees have lost five straight, and things don’t figure to get any easier for the slumping team with the bulging payroll.
These improbable three games in Kansas City were the first of a 12-game trip, the Yankees’ longest of the year, and will include stops in Minneapolis and Milwaukee and finish with an interleague series in St. Louis.
Carl Pavano (4-4) gave up consecutive home runs to Matt Stairs and Terrence Long in the sixth inning and joined Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson as the losing pitchers in the Royals’ first sweep of any team in 78 series.
“I don’t know if frustrated is the world, but they definitely needed a solid outing from me to go out there and for us to avoid getting swept and I didn’t pitch well at all,” Pavano said. “My job was to help the team and that’s not what I did.”
The Yankees are suddenly making the silly mistakes that had characterized the Royals while they lost 37 of their first 50 games. Alex Rodriguez, the AL player of the month for May, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday night. Bernie Williams got thrown out at second in the fifth inning trying to advance on a fly ball to center.
“The right thing to do is tag up, and when you see the throw is on the money, you go back,” Torre said. “It’s right in front of you. If you see the throw’s off line, you keep going. If you see it’s not off line, you come back. We all know Bernie. He wants to win badly and sometimes he gets outside himself.”
The Yankees’ skid began with two losses to Boston. Before then, they had won 16 of 18 and seemingly righted themselves after a terrible start.
“I hoped we could limit it to a two-game losing streak. Now we have to limit it to a five-game losing streak,” Torre said.
In retrospect, the Yankees might have hit town at a terrible time, just hours after no-nonsense Buddy Bell was named manager and made it clear he would tolerate no stupid mistakes or even late arrivals for pregame stretching.
For these three games at least, everybody snapped to attention and kept their heads in the game.
Gone were the boneheaded blunders that helped the Royals set a pace to threaten the major league record of 120 losses.
“I think guys know that a lot of stuff that went on in the past is not going to go on anymore,” said outfielder Terrence Long, who hit one of two home runs Thursday night.
“I think guys know that and they’re trying to avoid that,” he said. “We’re playing with more enthusiasm. It’s natural when you bring in a new guy.”
For sure, the Royals seemed to be a team that was glad to have some direction and discipline.
“I’m certain that was a part of it, that there was a change and all of a sudden things started happening that evidently haven’t happened for a while,” Torre said. “We were the victims. But we contributed. We didn’t play clean ballgames. But you can’t take away from the energy they showed and the ability they showed us on the field.”
Bell, who replaced Tony Pena, was asked if he’s a miracle worker and the question seemed to irritate him.
“I’m not,” he said. “It is something the players should be proud of. They should feel good about themselves.”
It’s the third time in the Yankees’ storied history that they have been swept by the team with the worst record in the majors. Now they’ve lost five in a row for the first time in more than two years.
Might they have taken the Royals lightly?
“I don’t think we take any team for granted,” said the tightlipped Pavano, who was the loser in last week’s 17-1 debacle against Boston. “You can’t. This is baseball.”
Derek Jeter’s single in the third broke an 0-for-12 skid. … Mike Sweeney’s single in the fourth missed Pavano’s face by inches. …
The Royals’ sweepless streak wasn’t even close to the major league record of 134 series set by the Athletics from 1918-22. …
The home run was No. 200 for Stairs, who joined Larry Walker as the only Canadian-born players with 200. …
The other times the Yankees were swept three games by the worst team in the majors were in 2003 by Detroit and 1937 by the Philadelphia A’s. They still made it to the World Series both years.
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