KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This weekend you had a better chance of getting out of the lots at Belmont Park 10 minutes after the Stakes than seeing the Yankees get a critical hit.

Of course, the Yankees' problems with the bats run far deeper than a couple of days, the reason they're again a .500 baseball team and looking like a longshot to be at that mark by the end of this 10-game trip.

Sunday was particularly galling, certainly from the perspective of Hiroki Kuroda, whose solid outing was wasted in a 2-1 loss to the Royals in front of 24,614 at Kauffman Stadium.

"It was a game of missed opportunities," said Derek Jeter, who went 0-for-4 and is now in an 8-for-46 skid since his four-hit day in Chicago against the White Sox May 25. "You give those guys credit . . . [but] we've got to find ways to score runs, especially when you have guys on third base, less than two outs, we have to find ways to get them in.

The Yankees (31-31), whose offense has been floundering for weeks, went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine against the Royals (31-32).

"We have to find a way to get it done," Joe Girardi said. "You can't win games like this. We had a ton of opportunities. You get a great performance from Kuroda and we didn't do anything with it."

Appropriately, after Ichiro Suzuki reached second with none out in the ninth against Greg Holland, the Yankees failed to get him in.

Brian Roberts flew to short left, pinch hitter Mark Teixeira grounded out to second - which moved Ichiro to third - and Brett Gardner struck out to end it.

"We have to find a way to get those guys in [RISP] and we really haven't been doing a really good job of it," said Gardner, who did go 2-for-5. "It's not like we're trying to fail. It's not like we're not working hard or don't care. We take a lot of pride in what we do and it's frustrating when you don't get the job done."

The Yankees did succeed in driving James Shields' pitch count up over his six innings, but that was about it, scratching out an unearned run and six hits against the righthander.

Shields (7-3, 3.44), who walked two and struck out eight, was at 49 pitches after two and 80 after four, but never allowed the big hit. The Bombers were 1-for-12 with RISP against Shields, stranding seven.

Kuroda (4-4, 4.12) allowed two runs - both in the second inning after retiring the first two hitters - and seven hits over seven innings.

"When you have your guy pitch the way Hiro did today, he deserves to get a win and we should get a win as a team, and we just didn't get it done," said Roberts, who went 1-for-3 with a double. Their guy on the mound is pretty good, too. He's got a job to do, we've got a job to do and he did it better than we did today."

The second inning exemplified the Yankees' afternoon.

Yangervis Solarte led off the inning with a single, improving to 12 for his last 30, and went to second on a wild pitch. Ichiro (2-for-4) singled to left, putting runners on the corners. Roberts worked a walk to load the bases for Kelly Johnson, who struck out. Gardner bounced one to first where Eric Hosmer threw home to complete the rare 3-2 putout, and Jeter struck out.

Gardner tripled with one out in the seventh but was stranded when Jeter grounded out, with the infield in, and Jacoby Ellsbury struck out looking.

"It seems like when guys are scuffling, sometimes they scuffle in bunches," Jeter said. "And when you get hot, it seems like a lot of guys are hot so these are times you have to keep swinging . . . You're usually not as bad as you look when things are going bad , just like you're usually not as good as you look when things are going good. It will turn around."