Girardi's gamble can't save Yanks
Kennedy pushed to relief with threat of rain; offense silenced
KANSAS CITY -- The idea might have looked good on paper, and it was certainly understandable considering the large green blob that threatened the general area. Mindful of those ugly Doppler scans, Yankees manager Joe Girardi gambled that Wednesday night's game would be interrupted. He lost.
Scratching rookie Ian Kennedy minutes before first pitch, Girardi opted instead to have the Yankees' relievers start and his starter relieve, planning on spending some time in the clubhouse to wait out a lengthy delay. But the Yankees and Royals played on, spoiling the manager's forward-looking plans with a 4-0 loss at sloppy Kauffman Stadium.
"I didn't get fooled -- they said once it started it would be moderate to heavy," Girardi said. "It was something we talked about. We knew the rain was coming, and we knew it had a chance to get real bad. In your mind, you hope it works out. The guys did the job; we just didn't score any runs."
Girardi's move actually took a page out of former Yankees manager Joe Torre's book, one week after the Dodgers skipper shelved Chad Billingsley before a 74-minute rain delay against the Giants. In Kansas City, the rains came but play continued, leaving the infield a muddy mess but otherwise offering equal conditions for both clubs.
"The bottom line is, we didn't score any runs," Girardi said. "That's why we didn't win. I thought we pitched pretty well. We didn't score any runs, and you can't win if you don't score. Obviously, we've got to start hitting."
Making the first start of his big league career, right-hander Brian Bruney worked two scoreless innings, striking out four around one hit. Bruney, who hadn't started since 2000 in the Arizona Rookie League, said he originally feared that Kennedy -- one of the Yankees' "Big Three" starting pitching prospects -- had been injured or at least suffered a blister.
So did Royals first baseman Ross Gload, who leaned over to baserunner Johnny Damon in the first inning and said, "Man, you guys are dropping like flies."
Bruney said he originally tried to act like a starter, but began to shrug that off after issuing a first-inning walk to Mark Teahen, saying: "That wasn't me." Completely back in reliever mode after Billy Butler's double leading off the second, Bruney then struck out the side swinging.
"It was definitely different," Bruney said. "It'll be cool on the back of the baseball card, I guess."
After heavy rains came and passed, left-hander Billy Traber relieved and contributed a scoreless third inning, but the Royals finally got to Kyle Farnsworth as he worked in the fifth, pitching in his second inning of work. John Buck opened the frame with a solo home run to center, his first, and Jose Guillen also stroked a run-scoring single in an inning that featured two Farnsworth walks and three Kansas City hits.
"To Buck, he made a mistake with his fastball," Girardi said. "That's all. That's going to happen. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't. To Guillen, he left a slider up after throwing two good sliders to him. He didn't miss it."
Meanwhile, the Royals stuck with their scheduled starter, right-hander Zack Greinke, and they were rewarded for it. Greinke dazzled the Yankees over eight innings, scattering six hits in a 107-pitch performance while walking two and striking out two. No Yankees baserunner touched third base.
"From a managerial standpoint, you sit there and ask yourself if you did the right thing, and you really don't know until a few hours later," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I'm glad we stuck with our starter, and Zack pitched outstanding."
The Yankees were shut out for the first time since last Aug. 27 at Detroit and have now been limited to just 25 runs through their first nine games, including only two in this Kansas City series.
"We're close, but it's just putting hits together," Damon said. "So far this season, we haven't hit well with runners in scoring position. We're getting guys on base, and we're hitting into a lot of double plays. Our pitchers definitely don't deserve the fate that they're getting. We will start scoring runs. I think we were in worse shape last year."
Kennedy finally came on for the sixth inning, with rain still falling. The Royals were ready, as Alex Gordon worked a leadoff walk and Gload drove a run-scoring double over Hideki Matsui's head in left field, with Gordon sliding home under catcher Jose Molina's tag. Tony Pena legged out a fielder's choice on a ground ball to shortstop, allowing Gload to score Kansas City's fourth run.
"We targeted the sixth because once you get to that point, you have an [official] game, and if it's tied, you would just resume it with the new rules instead of starting over," Girardi said.
The outing was more difficult to gauge for Kennedy than his first start against the Rays on April 4 in New York, but not particularly more encouraging. In that start, Kennedy could not make it out of the third inning as he allowed a career-high six earned runs to a free-swinging Tampa Bay lineup.
The Royals, similarly aggressive despite the ongoing precipitation, touched Kennedy for two runs on two hits in three innings, an abbreviated outing in which the 23-year-old also walked two and struck out three. Kennedy said he went through his normal stretch and had started tossing before he was given the word to head out to the bullpen around 7:45 p.m. ET, just 20 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
"It was pretty different -- I'm not used to that," Kennedy said. "It's something you have to adjust to, but you really can't get used to that. I didn't see it coming. ... I thought I did OK. Mentally, I was OK. I wasn't thrown off. I take that as a positive."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.