In the end, though, Royals reliever Andrew Sisco got Jason Giambi to ground into a game-ending double play as the Royals beat the Yankees, 7-6. The win ended the two losing skids and gave Royals starter Scott Elarton (1-5) his first win of the season.
"I would have waited until 4 or 5 a.m. to get that one," said Royals manager Buddy Bell.
In the ninth, right-hander Joe Nelson came in for his first close situation after being called up from Triple-A Omaha 12 days ago. Nelson allowed a single to pinch-hitter Terrence Long and, after a flyout by Johnny Damon, gave up a walk to Derek Jeter. Gary Sheffield followed with a sharp liner to center which Esteban German almost grabbed on a diving play. The ball skipped by German to allow Long to score and set up a game-winning situation for Giambi. But Sisco forced him into a grounder to Mark Grudzielanek.
"That's the type of thing we needed as a team," said Nelson. "We've been scuffling all year long and to have Sisco pick me up like that, to pick a teammate up, that's great for our whole team."
It was agonizing and enticing for the Royals all night. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning against Yankees ace Mike Mussina. Reggie Sanders hit a solo shot to left field for the 299th home run of his career.
Later in the inning, Mussina loaded the bases when he allowed a single to Tony Graffanino, a walk to Angel Berroa and another free pass to Paul Bako. Shane Costa then drove a Mussina fastball to right-center to bring in Graffanino and Berroa.
But, just as quickly as Mussina scuffled in the second, he settled down the rest of the way. The 37-year-old right-hander retired the side in the next three innings before allowing a hit to Matt Stairs in the sixth as he kept the Royals off the scoreboard.
Conversely, the Yankees began to get to Elarton.
After three shutout innings, Jeter led off the fourth with a nubber that traveled about twenty feet for his 2,000th career hit. Jeter advanced to second on catcher Bako's wild throw to first. Jeter then stole third base.
Elarton struck out Sheffield and then induced Giambi into a popout to Graffanino at third. But Alex Rodriguez turned on a first-pitch fastball from Elarton and singled to left for the Yankees first run.
Elarton pitched a quick 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, but in the sixth he got into trouble. Johnny Damon led off with a single to right, followed by a walk by Jeter. Sheffield hit a popout to Bako but Giambi tied the game when he drilled an Elarton pitch to deep center.
"I'm more upset about the walk because you never want to give that lineup free passes," said Elarton. "And then, that pitch to Giambi I missed [the location] by four inches. You can't afford to do that against guys like that."
The Giambi double hit the top of the wall and Yankees manager Joe Torre argued for a home run, but to no avail. Rodriguez followed with a single, and it looked as if the floodgates would open against Elarton. But the 31-year-old veteran got Robinson Cano to ground out and Bernie Williams to fly out to end the inning.
The Royals responded, tying the game in the seventh off Yankees reliever Scott Proctor with three singles by Graffanino, Bako and Costa and then, in the eighth, surprised the 48,035 in attendance by taking the lead once again.
Sanders struck out against Yankees reliever Kyle Farnsworth but Stairs followed with his second consecutive single. After Emil Brown flied out to center, Graffanino walked. Berroa then silenced the Yankee faithful with a deep drive to left that Yankees left fielder Melky Cabrera got a glove on, but was unable to corral.
"We've been battling and battling all season long and have had games where we've lost by a matter of inches," said Stairs, who finished 2-for-4 with a run scored. "We'll take it on our side this time."
The Yankees put together a rally in the eighth and scored a run off Elarton when Giambi singled and scored on A-Rod's double. But relievers Jimmy Gobble and Joel Peralta combined to get three consecutive outs to end the threat.
"It's nice to finally get the monkey off our back," said Elarton.