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Clutch hitting eludes Yankees as Shields out-pitches Kuroda, leads Royals to 2-1 victory

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Derek Jeter was asked rather innocently whether he knew the Yankees had just gone 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on Sunday.

"Nope," he replied. "I do now."

Pause for a beat.

"Thanks," Jeter added with a chuckle.

James Shields put most of those runners on base. He also left most of them there, the only run he allowed over six innings unearned. And when his bullpen took over, they allowed two more Yankees to get into scoring position, only to leave them stranded there.

That included Ichiro Suzuki on second with the tying run in the ninth inning.

"It was a game of missed opportunities," Jeter said. "We had a lot of opportunities. Give those guys credit. We've seen Shields for years now and he's as good as they come, especially with guys on base. He bears down."

The Royals have won the last seven games that Shields (7-3) has started, and he's earned the win in four of those. The veteran right-hander may have lasted only six innings in this effort, but he out-dueled Hiroki Kuroda (4-4) while allowing only six hits to the punchless Yankees.

"They're always tough," said Shields, who faced them for the 30th time, more than any other club. "They make good at-bats. It's always a grind whenever you face them."

Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas drove in the runs for Kansas City. Aaron Crow escaped a jam in the seventh inning, and Wade Davis recorded the 500th strikeout of his career in a perfect eighth before Greg Holland survived a shaky ninth for his 18th save.

The All-Star closer gave up a leadoff single to Suzuki and then sent him to second on a wild pitch. Holland kept his cool, retiring Brian Roberts on a fly out, pinch hitter Mark Teixeira on a groundout and then striking out Brett Gardner to end the game.

"Shields battled his butt off," Crow said. "You want to make sure he gets the win."

The Yankees failed to score more than four runs for the 10th consecutive game, though the not-so-aptly-named "Bronx Bombers" certainly had their share of chances.

Not just in the ninth inning, either.

New York stranded runners on first and second in the first inning. It loaded the bases with nobody out in the second and failed to score. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the third with a double and was left on third base. And Roberts was stranded after a fourth-inning double.

In all, 10 of the first 12 outs Shields recorded were with runners in scoring position.

While the Yankees were struggling to find a clutch hit, the Royals managed to string together the only real success they had against Kuroda with two outs in the second inning.

Hot-hitting Salvador Perez, who cracked a three-run homer in an 8-4 win Saturday night, got things going with a single. Cain's base hit drove in the first run and Moustakas, in the throes of another major slump, added another single to make the score 2-0.

That was all the Royals could muster against Kuroda, who had been unbeaten in his last six starts. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out three in seven innings.

"The biggest thing is the team lost. That's what is disappointing," Kuroda said through a translator, "but I was able to go seven innings and keep the team in the game."

New York finally scored in the sixth, when Yangervis Solarte hit a double and reached third base on a passed ball. Suzuki drove him in with a groundout to shortstop.

But given a chance to tie the game, the Yankees kept coming up empty.

Their failure in the ninth inning came after Gardner sent a triple to the wall with one out in the seventh. Crow rebounded to get Derek Jeter on a ground out, and then struck out Ellsbury with a full-count pitch to leave the tying run 90 feet away.

"The big thing is you can't try to do too much," Girardi said. "That's the big thing for me."

NOTES: Davis has not allowed a hit in 15 appearances. ... The double by Roberts was actually a ground-rule double. A ball boy picked up his fair ball down the right-field line and gave it to a fan. ... Royals 2B Omar Infante ended a 0-for-19 slump with a single in the third. ... LHP Vidal Nuno starts the series finale Monday for New York. LHP Jason Vargas starts for Kansas City.

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