KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was a terrible time for the New York Yankees to play a terrible team.
The Yankees were swept by the worst team in baseball, falling 5-2 to the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night for their first five-game losing streak in more than two years.
It's the third time in their storied history the Yankees had been swept in three games by the team with the worst record in the majors. The other times were in 2000 by Detroit and 1937 by the Philadelphia A's.
New York, after winning 16 of 18, still faces stops in Minneapolis, Milwaukee and St. Louis in its longest road trip of the year.
"You've got to give the Royals credit," said Joe Torre, who held a closed-door meeting with his team on Wednesday night.
"But again, when you have the ability that we have on this club, I think it's more an emphasis on our inability to win than somebody else's ability to win. And I take nothing away from the opposition because I understand how hard it is to play this game.
"I hoped we could limit it to a two-game losing streak. Now we have to limit it to a five-game losing streak."
The lowly Royals were energized -- maybe even a bit intimidated -- by a tough-talking new manager who's made it clear he will not tolerate careless mistakes. All of a sudden, nobody's job seemed secure.
Kansas City completed its first three-game sweep at home of the Yankees in 15 years.
"I think the most important thing is we finished these games off," said Terrence Long, who hit one of two home runs off Carl Pavano. "That was the biggest thing. We went to late innings with the lead and we finished it off."
Might the Yankees have taken the Royals lightly? Their payroll of more than $200 million dwarfs the Royals', which is not quite $40 million. Despite their three-game sweep, the Royals' record of 16-37 is still the worst in the majors.
"I don't think we take any team for granted," said the tight-lipped Pavano, who was the loser in last week's 17-1 debacle against Boston. "You can't. This is baseball."
Still, the Royals weren't sure.
"It's possible," said reliever Mike Wood, who pitched two innings of one-hit relief behind Ryan Jensen (2-1). "They have nine veterans who start every game. I don't want to say they did because I want to know we beat them at their hardest. I'm going to say they didn't take us lightly."
The Royals had gone 78 series without sweeping anyone, the longest drought in the majors since the Phillies went 79 series without a sweep from 1996-97.
"It's always nice to beat the Yankees, but throw the sweep in and it just adds a plus to everything," said Jensen, who was called up from Triple-A last month for his first major league appearance since 2003.
Jensen went five innings, giving up two runs and four hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, in contrast, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is hitless in his last 13 at-bats after being named AL player of the month for May.
So is Buddy Bell a miracle worker? The question seemed to rankle the new manager.
"I'm not," he said. "It (the sweep) is something the players should be proud of. They should feel good about themselves."
Matt Stairs hit Pavano's pitch into the left-field bullpen leading off the sixth. A moment later, Long hit one into the bullpen in right, making it 5-2 and bringing a roar from 25,590 fans who have had little to cheer about since a 104-loss season in 2004. Most of them were on their feet and many were waving brooms as the Yankees went down in the ninth.
Bell, who took over the team on Tuesday just hours before the first game of the series, became the only Royals manager besides Whitey Herzog to win his first three games.
Pavano (4-4) went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and nine hits. After giving up only 16 home runs last season with Florida, he's already served up 13 this year.
The Royals, who swept the Yankees in New York in 1994, tied it at 1 in the third on an RBI double by Angel Berroa, then took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Teahen's RBI single and a fielder's choice grounder by Costa in his second major league at-bat.
"It hurts, there's no question about that," said Torre. "But there are a lot of other guys who are hurting, too."
- Jeter's single in the third broke an 0-for-12 skid.
- Mike Sweeney's line-drive single in the fourth missed Pavano's face by inches.
- The Royals' sweepless streak wasn't even close to the major-league record of 134 series set by the Athletics from 1918-22.
- The home run was No. 200 for Stairs, who joined Larry Walker as the only Canadian-born players with 200 homers.