- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda retired 15 straight against perhaps baseball’s hottest team.

He also gave up three runs in the first inning and two more in the seventh.

The wildly inconsistent outing by the wildly mercurial right-hander doomed New York in an 8-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night. New York tried to rally with four runs in the eighth inning, but the hole dug by Pineda and his bullpen proved much too deep.

“It’s unusual,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “At times he’s really, really good. Then there are times when he leaves the ball up or doesn’t quite get it high enough or doesn’t quite get it low enough and they put it in play and they are base hits.”

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then went on his blistering streak before getting in a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Alcides Escobar’s three-run homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Pineda was charged with five runs and seven hits in six-plus innings, striking out eight.

“Even in the first inning, I was making a good pitch and they got a pretty good swing and got a base hit,” Pineda said. “It’s a really good lineup.”

Dillon Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals’ staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

“Just did a great job of executing pitches,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Worked up in the strike zone, worked down. Worked side-to-side really effectively.”

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera for the four-out save.

He retired Mark Teixeira to get out of that jam. Herrera then put runners on the corners in the ninth but calmly struck out Castro to wrap up his 11th save.

The Royals (69-62) were seven games below .500 on Aug. 6, nearly left for dead 11 games back in the AL Central. But their impressive run fueled by sharp pitching, timely hitting and a dominant back of the bullpen has thrust the scrappy bunch back into the playoff chase.

They are 5 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the division and just two behind the second wild card.

It was a frustrating night for the Yankees, who had elbowed their own way back in the playoff chase. They were a half-game behind Kansas City at the start of the night, but their second straight loss on the heels of a four-game winning streak was costly against a fellow contender.

Girardi’s frustration was evident when he was tossed by plate umpire Brian O’Nora for arguing balls and strikes with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth inning.

Didi Gregorius proceeded to deliver a two-run double, and the Yankees tacked on two more runs against the Kansas City bullpen before Herrera put a stop to their rally.

“Two different strike zones. It’s unfortunate,” Girardi said of his ejection. “Even the broadcasters were talking about it in the eighth and ninth inning. I don’t know why. I’m frustrated by it. I don’t know if you give the catcher’s credit. I know the last inning and the inning before that I’m watching on TV and I see it. Oh-1 is a lot different than 1-and-oh a lot of times.”

STATS AND STREAKS

The Royals have cut 7 1/2 games from their wild-card deficit in 22 games. … Pineda lost for the first time since July 31 at Tampa Bay, snapping a four-start win streak. … Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury reached base on catcher’s interference for the 11th time this season, extending his major league record.

AWARD WINNERS

Yankees C Gary Sanchez won his second straight AL player of the week award. He hit .522 with three doubles, five homers and nine RBIs while walking five times in six games. … Royals 1B Eric Hosmer and Yankees SS Gregorius were chosen from their teams for the Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Association.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals RHP Luke Hochevar said he experienced “instant relief” after surgery for symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. The reliever will begin rehab soon. “The swelling, the coldness is gone,” he said. “I haven’t had any of that happen since surgery.”

UP NEXT

Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka has tossed 14 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts. He takes on Royals RHP Edinson Volquez, who has won his last two decisions.


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