Kansas City Royals open 4-game home series with loss to the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have long been the gold standard in Major League Baseball. The Bronx Bombers have a certain level of cache, in large measure thanks to their 27 World Series titles.

On Monday, the Yankees rolled into Kauffman Stadium with this season’s best record in the American League. Not many teams have been able to slow down New York’s runaway subway train.

The Kansas City Royals were going to certainly try. And they put forth a good first effort with frontline ace Seth Lugo on the mound before falling 4-2 in the opening clash of a four-game series.

“You know we are a very resilient team,” Royals infielder Nick Loftin said. “... We can get somebody on base and bring up the tying run (which they did, in the ninth inning).

“We can do some magic. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t our night.”

The Royals dropped to 39-28 in front of an announced 24,038 fans.

The Yankees didn’t rely on the long ball in this one. Instead, with sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton sitting out Monday’s game, they peppered Lugo with a barrage of base hits.

New York had nine hits — all singles — and produced four runs. Lugo allowed two runs in the first inning as he navigated the Yankees’ dangerous lineup.

“It’s a good lineup and we all knew that coming in,” Lugo said. “It’s a good team and they are hot. I think it’s a matter of game-plan — just to try to mix it up just a little bit better. Overall, I thought I threw the ball well. I’ll tip my hat to some of the approaches over there.”

Kansas City Royals catcher Freddy Fermin, left, visits with starting pitcher Seth Lugo during the fifth inning of Monday evening’s series opener against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City Royals catcher Freddy Fermin, left, visits with starting pitcher Seth Lugo during the fifth inning of Monday evening’s series opener against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.

Juan Soto, who missed a few games with left-forearm inflammation, returned to the Yankees’ lineup and went 1-for-3. Catcher Jose Trevino added a two-run single in the fourth inning.

Lugo allowed all four runs across seven innings and suffered just his second loss of the season.

“He just got in trouble and just couldn’t get the swing-and-miss that he wanted with his breaking ball early,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said of Lugo. “It got sharper as he went, but give them credit for putting the ball in play. Trevino beat us pretty good today.”

Meanwhile, the Royals struggled against Yankee ace Carlos Rodón. He limited the KC offense throughout the game and allowed a single run in seven innings of work.

The Royals nearly rallied. They brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, but Yankees reliever Michael Tonkin collected himself to earn his first save of the season.

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Here are more notable aspects from Monday’s game:

Hunter Renfroe exits with injury

The Royals suffered a significant blow before the outcome of Monday’s game was decided: outfielder Hunter Renfroe left the game in the fifth inning with a fractured left big toe.

Renfroe had one at-bat up to that point. He struck out against Rodón in the third inning after a 12-pitch sequence. Renfroe fouled off several pitches near home plate, including two off his left foot, before being rung up on a called third strike.

After the game, Quatraro said Renfroe believes the first foul ball off his foot caused the injury.

“He went down in the cage and tried to move around a little, but he got it twice in a row,” Quatraro said. “You know, when he was out there, he came back in and they got to take his shoe off and check it out. He said he couldn’t keep going.”

With Renfroe hurt, the Royals inserted MJ Melendez in left field. Dairon Blanco, already in the starting lineup, shifted over to right.

Renfroe had been hitting .200 this season with six home runs and 26 RBIs. He entered Monday’s game on a nine-game hitting streak. He had batted .375 (12-for-32) during that span.

Dan Altavilla makes Royals debut

Royals reliever Dan Altavilla hadn’t stepped on an MLB mound in nearly three seasons.

Yet he didn’t miss a beat.

Altavilla pitched the eighth inning Monday night against the Yankees. He was tasked with facing the heart of the New York lineup.

Even after 1,151 days away, Altavilla recorded a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. Per Baseball Savant, his four-seam fastball topped out at 97.4 mph and his slider averaged 90.1 mph on the radar gun.

“I thought he looked great,” Lugo said. “He had a great fastball. I felt like he got squeezed a little bit, too, but he was sharp and impressive to watch.”

Altavilla punctuated his relief appearance by forcing Yankees outfielder Trent Grisham to ground out near first base. Altavilla hustled over to receive the incoming throw and then exited to celebratory applause.

Royals teammates gave Altavilla high-fives in the dugout after his successful return to the majors.

What’s next on the KC Royals’ schedule?

The Royals continue their four-game series against the Yankees on Tuesday.

Right-hander Brady Singer draws the start for the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Singer has made four career starts against the Yankees. Last season, he allowed two earned runs and registered nine strikeouts in a July 22 start in New York.

The Yankees will start veteran right-hander Marcus Stroman. He is 5-2 with a 3.04 ERA this season.