First-inning failure haunts Yankees

NEW YORK -- The math just didn't add up right to Joe Girardi.

"Any time you put up four hits in an inning, you think you're going to get more than one run," Girardi said of the Yankees' first inning in its 3-1 loss to the Royals on Tuesday. "We put a bunch of singles, and [James Shields] gave up one hit the next six innings, and we didn't do much off him."

The Yankees missed on a golden opportunity to break open the game, scoring just one run in the first inning despite an offensive barrage. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead behind four hits and loaded the bases with one out but couldn't plate anything more in their third straight loss.

"We felt like we could get back into it," Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "He just located real well and didn't give up many mistakes. We couldn't get anything going."

The Yankees came out on fire against Shields with three straight hits to the start the game, including an RBI single by Robinson Cano to go up 1-0. The one run they plated in the first three batters matched the total they had produced in each of their previous two games.

After a strikeout by Travis Hafner, Zoilo Almonte laced a soft single to right. Ichiro Suzuki rounded third, but third base coach Rob Thomson held him, playing it safe instead of testing right fielder David Lough's arm. Lough has a respectable four outfield assists this season.

"I'm expecting to score any time there's a hit, but rounding third obviously I can't see the play," Suzuki said. "All I can do is go off what the coach tells me to do."

Girardi said he thought it would have been a "bang-bang" play but was OK with the decision.

"It's a tough call," Girardi said. "It's an instant call you have to make, and I didn't have a problem with him not sending him."

At a time when the Yankees are struggling offensively, and perhaps need to be more aggressive on the basepaths, the call to play it safe ended up backfiring as the Yankees couldn't get a clutch hit. With the bases loaded and one out, Overbay struck out and Cain made a fantastic running grab to rob Eduardo Nunez of a potentially bases-clearing hit.

"I think [we were] what anybody would be in that situation: disappointed," Suzuki said. "How you guys would feel would be the same feeling that we have, too."

After a blazing start, the Yankees' offense went missing the rest of the night. Over the final 23 outs, they managed just one hit and had a total of three baserunners over the final six innings. Given a chance to tie the game in the eighth inning, Cano struck out to end the frame with the Yanks down 3-1.

Failing to produce in that first inning limited the Yankees with one run for the third straight game.

"We've had opportunities, so it's not like we're not getting those opportunities. We're just not getting that key hit, and everybody is guilty of it," Overbay said. "It's a matter of kind [of] zoning in and making sure that we have good at-bats. If we have good at-bats and don't come through, so be it."