NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner didn't feel any pressure stepping to the plate in the 13th inning, the game tied and fans restlessly booing each failure by Alex Rodriguez and the rest of the Yankees' high-powered hitters.
Why should he? The way the bullpen was going, it seemed as if New York was going to win eventually.
"I got behind 0-2 in a period of 15 seconds and I was like, 'Oh no, not this again,"' Gardner said. "I was fortunate to get a pitch to hit."
The Yankees won for just the second time in eight games, clinging to their playoff hopes. They began the day 10½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and seven back of the Boston Red Sox for the wild card, with time running out to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 1993.
"I don't care who ended it, we needed to win this game," Derek Jeter said. "It would have been a rough one for us to lose. We had so many opportunities. At this point, it doesn't make a difference how it looks. We need to get wins."
Cano singled with one out in the 13th off Jeff Fulchino (0-1), just the third hit allowed by Royals relievers. Ivan Rodriguez moved up Cano with a groundout and Gardner slapped a single past third baseman Alex Gordon. The throw from left fielder David DeJesus to the plate was wide, and Cano scored easily.
Gardner had a career-high three hits, a day after rejoining the Yankees when Melky Cabrera was sent to Triple-A. Earlier this season, shortly after making his major league debut, Gardner hit a game-winning single in the 10th off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"It's not like you're down one run. There isn't really any pressure on you," Gardner said. "If you get a hit, great, everybody loves it. If not, well, that's what we've been doing for the last eight innings anyway, so we go back out and play defense in the 14th."
"We asked a lot of innings out of them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The bullpen just came in and shut the door. Everybody threw the ball great."
Gordon homered and Esteban German drove in the other run for the Royals, who lost for the eighth time in 10 games. Kansas City still can win the season series from the Yankees for the first time since 1999 with a victory on Sunday.
The game lasted 4 hours, 53 minutes, and both teams appeared drained after a night game Friday that was delayed more than 90 minutes by rain. Yankees batters struck out a season-high 13 times, the teams combined for seven double plays and committed four errors, through some generous scoring prevented that number from being much higher.
"It was a crazy game," said Royals starter Zack Greinke, "especially with the amount of sleep everyone had to work with."
The shoddy fielding spoiled a splendid start by Greinke, who had been 0-2 with an unsightly 14.90 ERA in three appearances at Yankee Stadium.
The 25-year-old right-hander abhors waking up for day games, but was sharp in allowing two runs -- both unearned -- and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. It was his first start since serving a five-game suspension for hitting Nick Swisher of the White Sox with a pitch during a testy game on Aug. 3.
Ponson was just as good for New York, working out of several jams and yielding only two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He still hasn't lost in 11 home starts since joining the Yankees.
Kansas City jumped ahead on Gordon's second-inning homer, and for a while one run was plenty.
Mixing a mid-90s fastball with a hard slider, Greinke struck out the side in the first and didn't allow a hit until Johnny Damon's leadoff single in the fourth.
The Royals added a run in the sixth when Guillen reached on a fielder's choice and Ponson loaded the bases with a pair of walks. German followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Yankees finally rallied with two outs in the seventh when Cano hit an RBI triple off the wall in right and scored on Greinke's wild pitch.
"We didn't do the things executionwise and approachwise that we needed to do," said Royals manager Trey Hillman, "and we wasted some great stuff by Zack Greinke."
- Yankees slugger Jason Giambi is 0-for-7 this series and has stranded 10 baserunners.
- DeJesus was back in the lineup after missing two games with a sore back.
- Yankees INF Cody Ransom made his big league debut in the seventh, pinch-running for Giambi.
- Babe Ruth died 60 years ago at age 53, just over two months after his last visit to Yankee Stadium, when his number was retired.