Kyle Higashioka saw the runner break for third base, a flash of churning blue and white moving across his peripheral vision. Knowing that he must act quickly with a curveball on the way, the catcher popped out of his crouch, snared the ball and fired.
The ball trickled into the outfield grass, and the Yankees catcher bristled. With just four errors to his name in the big leagues before Tuesday, he’d now thrown two balls into the outfield grass. It was that kind of night for the Yanks, who committed a season-high four errors in an 8-4 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s definitely pretty infuriating,” Higashioka said. “Obviously, I hate to make errors like that, especially since one directly led to a run. It’s just not acceptable.”
One night after the clubs swapped runs deep into the early hours in a scoring extravaganza that nearly lasted five hours, New York and Kansas City again jockeyed back and forth -- the Royals’ attack powered by two Salvador Perez homers -- until Hunter Dozier touched rookie right-hander Stephen Ridings for a go-ahead RBI double in the sixth.
“I think I left it pretty much right in the middle,” Ridings said. “I knew out of my hand it wasn’t going to be where I wanted it. At that point, there’s nothing you can do but hope for the best.”
Kansas City did a good job of hurrying the Yanks all night. While Higashioka’s misplays came on stolen bases, the Royals padded their lead in the seventh inning as Ridings threw away a sacrifice bunt, allowing Michael A. Taylor to trot home.
Nicky Lopez greeted Joely Rodríguez with a squeeze to nudge the Royals further ahead. The Yanks committed their fourth error in the eighth inning, when first baseman Luke Voit flubbed an Andrew Benintendi grounder. Benintendi came around to score on a sacrifice fly.
“It happens,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Higgy is elite, but a couple got away from him. Maybe a little fatigue was setting in tonight; back-to-back, long nights, hot nights. But overall, we just didn’t play our best.”
Not Nestor’s night
The Yankees had won all four of Nestor Cortes’ previous starts this season, a streak snapped as the left-hander was knocked for five runs (four earned) and seven hits over a career-high 5 2/3 innings.
“You always try to give the team some length and a chance to win,” Cortes said. “That’s the biggest goal as a starter. Coming into the game, I knew I had to go at least five to keep the bullpen out of the game.”
Perez launched a two-run shot off Cortes in the first inning, then added a solo blast in the sixth. Perez’s first homer came on a slider and the second on a curveball; Cortes said that he failed to execute both pitches.
“We had a tough time getting Salvy out tonight,” Higashioka said. “He pretty much has the ability to pull the ball, no matter where it is on the plate. When he pulls the ball in the air, he’s strong enough to where it’s pretty much a homer almost every time.”
Cortes retired 10 consecutive batters after Taylor’s second-inning single, but his luck ran out in the fifth as Merrifield doubled, swiped third and scored on Higashioka’s error. The five runs allowed by Cortes were the most by a Yankees starter since July 29.
“He was pitch-efficient (80) and in the strike zone,” Boone said. “It wasn’t his sharpest, but he definitely kept us in the ballgame and gave us a chance.”
Missing in action
The Yankees managed three runs in 4 2/3 innings against rookie Daniel Lynch, rated as the No. 19 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.
Andrew Velazquez stroked a third-inning double for his first Yankees hit, then scored on a wild pitch.
Higashioka slugged a two-run homer in the fourth -- his seventh, extending a career-high.
DJ LeMahieu added a run-scoring hit in the sixth off Domingo Tapia, but the Bombers’ bats went silent. Josh Staumont, Wade Davis and Scott Barlow retired the final 10 Yankees in order.
“I know that we’re going to go over it, evaluate it and figure out how to do better next time,” Higashioka said.