‘Ghosts’ can’t save Yanks on Derek Jeter Day

There was a moment in the first inning Sunday when those ghosts that Derek Jeter used to talk about in the old Yankee Stadium seemed to have found their way to the north side of 161st Street.

Jeter, on first base after a leadoff single, successfully avoided a tag by second baseman Omar Infante after fielding a ground ball by Martin Prado that might have started a double play. Infante then dropped the ball and in flipping it toward second base in an attempt for a face-saving force play hit Jeter in the back. All hands were safe.

Could the Yankees be on their way on Derek Jeter Day to a much-needed victory against the American League Central-leading Royals? Were the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig and Joe D. and the Mick there to guide them through this special day?

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the answer was no. If there were ghosts out there, they were the wrong ones. The Yankees did not score that inning or the next or any of the innings as Kansas City came away with its second shutout in three days without getting an earned run either time.

“We lost those two games, 1-0 and 2-0, with none of the runs being earned,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the frustrating point.”

Sunday’s loss was due in part to the Yankees playing well below their captain’s standards. Starting pitcher Shane Greene, who has displayed problems when having to throw to bases, was entirely responsible for the KC run in the second inning when he threw a relay to first base into right field. Girardi argued that Nori Aoki was out of the baseline running to first, but Greene’s throw was so wild that the umpire said there was no chance for a play.

The next inning, right fielder Carlos Beltran dropped a fly ball by Alex Gordon, who came around to score despite stumbling near third base because Beltran’s relay home was so far up the first base line that catcher Brian McCann had no shot at Gordon.

This was not the type of baseball that Jeter has embodied over the years for the Yankees, who cannot afford defensive mistakes when their offense so often struggles. They were limited to four hits, all singles, by four Royals pitchers Sunday and got only three runners as far as second base.

Jeter spoke after the game about the strange situation of being honored as a retiring player and yet still having to play. “You appreciate all the support, the nice things people say, but by the same token you still have to play a game,” Jeter said.

The Yankees are going to have to play the game a lot better if Jeter’s final games are to reach into October.

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