Somber night in Kansas City

Obviously, the Yankees lost more than a game Thursday night. Even before the 4-3 setback to the Royals, the Yankees had suffered a huge blow when Mariano Rivera had to be carted off the field during batting practice after getting hurt while shagging a fly ball.

The preliminary report from the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam was that baseball’s all-time saves leader sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. The Yanks’ medical team will review those findings Friday in New York, but it is clear that Rivera will not be closing out games for some time.

Manager Joe Girardi did not elaborate on what his plans will be regarding the back end of the bullpen without Rivera. David Robertson would appear to be the logical choice to move into the closer role in Mo’s absence. Another option would be Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves with 45 in 2010 for the Rays before becoming a free agent and signing with the Yankees as a setup reliever. Girardi as well as the rest of the Yankees needed time to absorb the enormity of this loss before thinking about how to go about overcoming it.

Should surgery be required, which is probable, Rivera’s career just may be over. That is, if he indeed intended to retire at season’s end. He has teased with reporters all year that he has decided when he will walk away from the game for good, and many in the media have speculated that Mo intended to call it quits after this season.

I cannot imagine that he would want his remarkable career to end in such a manner. Assuming the Yankees would be willing to extend him another contract, Rivera almost certainly would want to mound a comeback, albeit at age 43.

A very emotional Rivera fought back tears in the clubhouse after the game and when asked if he would pitch again said, “At this point, I don’t know.”

As it turned out, the Yankees were not in position to use their closer Thursday night. They never had the lead in the game that turned out to be the Royals’ first victory of the season at home in 11 tries. The Yankees had the potential tying run on third base with two out in the ninth, but a classy play by third baseman Mike Moustakas, who also drove in three runs, on a dribbling grounder by Alex Rodriguez left the Yanks a run short.

The Yankees’ offense wasn’t as meek as in the Orioles series at Yankee Stadium earlier this week but no more productive. The Yanks had 13 hits but just one in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, a double by Mark Teixeira. The other runs scored on sacrifice flies, by Tex and Eduardo Nunez.

Derek Jeter had four hits to run his league-leading batting average to .404. It was his 14th multi-hit game and the fifth of three or more hits. On such a night, however, it was hard to feel good about anything.

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