NEW YORK (AP) -- The Yankees bounded out of their dugout, celebrating as if they had just won a postseason game. A ninth-inning error by the Kansas City Royals turned what should have been a distressing New York loss into a memorable comeback.
Reliever Jeremy Affeldt threw away a potential game-ending double-play ball, giving the Yankees the opportunity they needed. New York then rallied for five runs on five clutch hits that followed the error, beating the Royals 8-7 on Saturday.
"The bottom line is it's never over until the last out," said Derek Jeter, whose two-run single pulled New York within a run. "If you've done something before, you always think you can do it again."
New York, which began the day tied with Oakland for the AL wild-card lead, moved a season-high 16 games over .500. The Yankees, 61-37 following an 11-19 start, have come from behind in 32 of their wins.
"I think when we saw that window of opportunity on the double play, we felt we had a chance," said Alex Rodriguez, whose single ended the game.
Buddy Bell, who managed the Royals to a three-game sweep over the Yankees when he took over the club in May, was disgusted by the display.
"That was just poor -- execution-wise, attitude-wise, location-wise and position-wise," he said. "It just wasn't very good. We've got to finish the game."
The Royals were ahead 7-3 when Affeldt came in to start the ninth. He walked Jason Giambi and then struck out Bernie Williams. Jorge Posada hit a bouncer back to the mound, and Affeldt turned to throw to second. But the throw was low and wide, and shortstop Angel Berroa dropped the ball.
Affeldt, who seemed to slip on the resin bag as he threw the ball, sat disconsolate in front of his locker after the game and made no excuse.
"The bottom line is I blew it," he said. "It was a routine double play. I can't look anybody in the eye right now. It was an embarrassment."
Jeter followed with a two-run single past a diving Berroa, Hideki Matsui flied out and Gary Sheffield tied the score with a two-out double. Rodriguez followed with the winning single for the Yankees, who had just four hits going into the ninth.
"It looked like they needed oxygen for the first eight innings," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "And then they suddenly came to life."
Emergency Kansas City starter J.P. Howell allowed four hits in six-plus innings, and the Royals erased an early 3-0 deficit and appeared set to beat New York for the fourth time in five games this season. Mike Sweeney and Terrence Long drove in two runs apiece as Kansas City scored five times with two out in the fifth off Jaret Wright.
Denny Hocking popped out on the next pitch, but Sweeney hit a two-run double just past Rodriguez and down the third base line. Long followed with a two-run single for a 4-3 lead as Sweeney slid home ahead of the throw from Lawton. Wright threw a wild pitch, allowing the fifth run to score.
Sweeney hit an RBI single in the sixth off Aaron Small, and Phillips drove in another run with a two-out single in the eighth.
New York took a 2-0 lead in the first on Matsui's RBI double and Giambi's sacrifice fly, and Sheffield hit into a run-scoring double play in the third.
The crowd of 54,452 was the 37th sellout in 67 games at Yankee Stadium this season. ... Leadoff man DeJesus was on base four times with two singles and two walks. ... Wright threw 109 pitches in six innings, 69 for strikes. ... The Royals had three infield hits. ... Lawton's brother, Marcus, played for the Yankees in 1989. They are the sixth set of brothers to play for the Yankees, joining Felipe and Matty Alou, Joe and Phil Niekro, Al and Mark Leiter, Melido and Pascual Perez and Billy and Bobby Shantz.