NEW YORK — In a few days – or a few weeks if the Yankees pull off an ever-more unlikely post season miracle – the final game played by Derek Jeter will seal the end of an era, one of the greatest in the teams storied 112 year history. Jeter’s last home game is scheduled for September 25, but Sunday, September 7 was Derek Jeter day in the Bronx, the baseball world, and for thoughtful, appreciative fans everywhere.
Naturally, while his teammates and opponents alike showed signs that the emotions of the day were getting to them, Jeter again demonstrated his near-inhuman sangfroid by stroking a single his first time at bat. Longtime Yankee broadcaster John Sterling, who often overtalks the scene, was on target: “I have never seen anyone in any sport seize the moment like Derek Jeter.”
One fan in the stands summed up the day with a memorable sign: “Don’t be sad, be glad you got to see it happen.”
Kansas City players tipped their caps to Derek Jeter when the retiring New York Yankees captain walked up to the plate in the first inning. Then the Royals went back to work trying to make some history of their own.
Yordano Ventura pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning, and the AL Central leaders beat the Yankees 2-0 Sunday on a pair of unearned runs for their second shutout in the three-game series.
Trying for its first playoff berth since winning the 1985 World Series, Kansas City increased its AL Central lead to 2½ games over the second-place Tigers, who hosted San Francisco on Sunday night. The Royals headed to Detroit for a three-game series that starts Monday.
“We’re playing great baseball,” manager Ned Yost said. “We’re pitching, and we’re playing defense and scoring runs and winning ballgames, and that’s all I can ask.”
Kansas City scored due to errors by pitcher Shane Greene in the second inning and right fielder Carlos Beltran in the third. The Royals won 1-0 Friday night on an unearned run following third baseman Chase Headley’s error and went 4-3 against the Yankees this year to take the season series for the first time since 1999.
And they won on Derek Jeter Day, when many Yankees stars of the past returned for a 45-minute ceremony that also included NBA great Michael Jordan and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr. Video messages from athletes, celebrities and even astronauts in space were shown throughout the day.
“Oh, man! That was, honestly, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “Any time anyone came on that board or anyone they announced, I got chills.”
Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie suggested to his teammates that they tip their caps.
“He was my favorite player growing up,” Guthrie said. “I was there for the final game at (the original) Yankee Stadium. I was there when he recorded his 2,723rd hit that broke the hits record for the Yankees. … And now to be here for this — I’ve seen quite a few really cool moments.”
Kansas City, which hasn’t been in first place this late in a season since 1989, hopes to give its fans a reason to celebrate this fall.
Ventura (12-9) won his third straight start, leaving after a leadoff walk in the seventh — his fourth of the game.
“When I was able to throw the curve for a strike, it really helped all of the other pitches and made for quick innings,” he said through a translator. “When the curveball wasn’t getting over for a strike, that could have been the difference in the walks.”
With closer Greg Holland sidelined by a strained right triceps, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis combined for one-hit relief.
Kansas City went ahead in the second when Josh Willingham reached on an infield single near the mound, advanced on Moustakas’ single and scored with two outs when Nori Aoki hit a slow roller that Greene (4-3) threw wildly past first base.
Beltran dropped Alex Gordon’s easy fly leading off the third, and Gordon stole second before scoring on a single by Eric Hosmer, his first RBI since July 29.
“Any way you can score runs is a good way,” Moustakas said. “It doesn’t matter how they get across as long as you’re scoring.”
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy headed back to Kansas City for an MRI of his sore left shoulder. Yost said Holland played catch, “felt much, much better today” and will have his status re-examined Monday.
Yankees: OF Brett Gardner missed his second straight game because of a lower abdominal strain.
Royals: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (10-10) is slated to pitch Monday, with Justin Verlander (12-12) on the mound for the Tigers.
Yankees: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (10-8) starts Tuesday’s series opener against Tampa Bay RHP Chris Archer (8-8).
RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
Pitching on his 29th birthday, Davis got his second save of the series — and his big league career. After Beltran singled over first leading off the ninth, Davis struck out Brian McCann on a 3-2 pitch, retired Mark Teixeira on a soft grounder to third and fanned Stephen Drew on another full-count pitch. Davis has 94 strikeouts in 63 1-3 innings this season and has allowed one run in 53 innings dating to late April. That run scored when he hit the Los Angeles Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis with a bases-loaded pitch on June 25.
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