Due to some interesting scheduling, the Yankees and Orioles are now set to play each other 11 times…
David Wells was forced to leave the game after the third inning after aggravating his sciatic nerve yet again. The lefty has been battling the back injury for the better part of the season but has been playing through the pain. In this game, the pain appeared to be more than Wells could handle, and he left the game after allowing KC to tie it at five.
Sterling Hitchcock was called upon to eat some innings, and he appeared to be doing well until he ran into trouble in the sixth. He walked Mike DiFelice to lead off the inning and then allowed a single to Julio Matos. While in the process of striking out Dee Brown – who was originally attempting a sacrifice bunt – DiFelice stole third and Matos stole second.
With two runners in scoring position, Guiel ripped a double down the left field line to put the Royals up for good. Angel Berroa followed with another double to left that scored Guiel and put KC up 8-6.
The Yankees hung tough throughout the game. They opened the scoring with a three-run first inning against Royals starter Paul Abbott, and took a 5-1 lead in the third on Jason Giambi's 34th homerun of the season. But the pitching staff suffered a complete meltdown that kept the game just out of reach after Wells left.
Chris Hammond started the eighth inning and left the game with two out and a runner on third for Jesse Orosco. Orosco walked the only batter he faced and was pulled from the game. Some confusion ensued in the bullpen, as Joe Torre signaled for the right-hander.
The only problem was, there were two right-handers throwing out in left field. Jeff Nelson started walking toward the gate, but was informed that the recently called up Bret Prinz was the pitcher of choice. Making his Yankees debut, Prinz allowed back-to-back doubles to start his work. After an intentional walk, he allowed another double before retiring Matos on a fly ball to right field that David Dellucci had to full-on dive for. By the time the inning ended, KC was up 12-7.
The Yankees got two back in the top of the ninth, but Mike MacDougal held them down and closed out the game by getting Jorge Posada to ground into a game-ending double play.
The Royals pounded out a franchise-record 11 doubles in the game, including three from DiFelice. Both he and Mike Sweeney led the team with three RBI, while Guiel and Joe Randa contributed two RBI apiece.
The Yankee bats were just as hot, with Alfonso Soriano, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui each pounding out three hits. Matsui's solo homerun in the seventh brought the Yanks to within one run. Aaron Boone went 0/4 and saw his average as a Yankee drop to a pitiful .108.
Hitchcock (1-3) was charged with the loss after allowing three runs on four hits in four innings. He walked one and struck out two. Royals' reliever D.J. Carrasco (4-4) notched the victory by pitching 1 2/3 perfect innings.
Game two of the three-game set will be on Tuesday at 8:05 pm eastern time. Mike Mussina (12-6, 3.35) will take the mound for the Yankees to face Kansas City's Darrell May (5-5, 3.65).
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