Although he's struggled since winning his first three starts, Andy Pettitte appears to have a decent chance to bounce back against a team he's fared well against throughout his career.
Still without several key players due to injury, the Yankees continued their strong play with an 11-6 win in Friday's series opener. Lyle Overbay had a career-high four hits, including a two-run homer, and five RBIs and Ichiro Suzuki also had a two-run shot."Sometimes baseball doesn't make sense, and we really needed some runs, we got them," said manager Joe Girardi , who won his 500th game with the Yankees.
Girardi's club had totaled 14 runs while batting .203 over its previous six games before breaking out with 16 hits and scoring 10 or more runs for the first time since April 9.
The first-place Yankees (21-13) hope to provide similar support for Pettitte (3-2, 4.06 ERA), who has received just one run from the offense in his last three starts.
The 40-year-old left-hander, however, hasn't pitched well during that span, going 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA after posting a 2.01 ERA while winning his first three."It's a struggle. The issue is everything again," Pettitte said. "Everything you want to try and do as a starting pitcher, I'm not able to do right now. I have no command of my fastball."
Pettitte walked four for the first time since July 2010 and threw just 57 of 100 pitches for strikes, leaving without a decision in a 5-4 home loss to Oakland on Sunday. He allowed a season-high two homers in five innings and has lasted just 9 1-3 frames over his last two starts."I'm not going to judge someone on two starts," Girardi said. "If it goes on for a month, then obviously there's some concern. But I think every pitcher in the big leagues has probably had two starts that weren't so good, and that's not what you're used to seeing from a particular pitcher."
Pettitte hasn't had many rough stretches against the Royals. He's 14-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 22 career starts, winning nine straight decisions versus Kansas City over 13 outings dating back to the 2000 season.
The Royals (18-14), losers of four of five, counter with right-hander James Shields (2-2, 2.52).
Shields put together his best performance of the year Monday, allowing two hits and striking out a season-high nine over eight shutout innings but left without a decision in a 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox.
While he's 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA during a stretch of five consecutive quality starts, Shields may have a tough time keeping that streak alive in this matchup. He's 7-14 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts against the Yankees, posting a 6.03 ERA over his last six.
Robinson Cano , who went 2 for 5 Friday after appearing to aggravate a big toe injury a night earlier, should be happy to see Shields again. He's hitting .413 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 75 at-bats, including 9 for 18 with three doubles last season.
Eduardo Nunez (ribs), who was available off the bench in the opener, is 7 for 15 with two homers in this matchup.
|New York Yankees|
|May 05, 2013||Eduardo Nunez||Day-to-Day||Left game - tightness in left ribcage|
|May 03, 2013||David Robertson||Day-to-Day||Sore left hamstring|
|April 28, 2013||Kevin Youkilis||15-Day DL||Lumbar spine strain|
|April 28, 2013||Joba Chamberlain||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|April 27, 2013||Francisco Cervelli||60-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
|April 27, 2013||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right triceps inflammation|
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Andy Pettitte finally stopped beating himself up long enough to look at video of his past couple of outings, subpar efforts by any stretch and certainly his own lofty standards.
It turned out that all the 40-year-old left-hander needed to do was a make a couple of minor adjustments - alter his arm angle ever so slightly, for one thing - to get back on track.
Pettitte pitched seven stellar innings Saturday night, and Vernon Wells hit a go-ahead two-run homer before making a long running catch for the final out, giving the New York Yankees a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals .
Pettitte (4-2) allowed seven runs against Houston and only lasted five innings his last time out against Oakland. But he looked more like he did early in the season against the Royals, with a piercing cutter and pinpoint control that kept Kansas City at bay all night.
"Whenever you get knocked around, it's not a good feeling. You never want that doubt to creep in that you're not able to get it done," Pettitte said. "Hopefully I can continue to get sharper and sharper."
Pettitte allowed only a run-scoring groundout by Lorenzo Cain and a solo homer by Billy Butler while improving to 15-3 in his career against the Royals. Kansas City hasn't beaten him in 14 starts dating to Sept. 4, 2000.
"I really don't think he's forgotten how to pitch, forgotten how to throw a cutter or any of that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I always say, when you're old or overweight - and you don't want to be both - and you're struggling, people are always going to be saying, `Is something wrong? Is something wrong?' It's baseball. Everyone struggles."
Everyone except Mariano Rivera , it seems.
After David Robertson struck out the side in the eighth, Rivera worked around a two-out double by Salvador Perez for his 14th save. But it wasn't without some tension: Mike Moustakas hit a liner to right that landed just foul, and then scorched a pitch into the left-center field gap that Wells tracked down on the run to end the game.
It was Rivera's 14th save to start the season, and his 28th straight against the Royals. It came just over a year after he tore the ACL in his right knee while shagging balls in the Kauffman Stadium outfield during batting practice.
"I think Mo said it best, as an athlete, you can get hurt anywhere," Girardi said. "It just happened to be here. ... I'm sure it was good for him to get out there."
James Shields (2-3) was hurt by a throwing error on Moustakas at third base in the second inning that resulted in the Yankees' first run. He also gave up Wells' two-run shot in the fifth, moments after Butler's home run had staked Kansas City to 2-1 lead.
Shields wound up going eight innings for the third time in his last four outings, and each of those times he's failed to pick up the win. He dropped to 7-15 in his career against New York.
"You've got to pitch better," Shields said. "That's it."
It was the Royals' fifth loss in six games.
" Andy Pettitte threw the ball great," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Kept the ball down. Changes speeds. Hit his spots really well. We never mounted much of an attack."
The bounces certainly seemed to be going the Yankees' way most of the night.
Travis Hafner hit a slow grounder toward first base in the fourth inning, and Shields and first baseman Eric Hosmer had trouble deciding who should grab it. Neither of them did until it was too late, and Hafner coasted across the bag for an infield single.
Lyle Overbay hit another grounder in the sixth inning that Elliot Johnson fielded at second base, but only after shortstop Alcides Escobar bumped into him. The slight hiccup allowed Jayson Nix to reach second safely and Overbay to be safe at first.
Meanwhile, a hard-hit ball by Moustakas leading off the seventh inning caromed off Pettitte's glove and right to Robinson Cano . The Yankees' second baseman made the soft toss to first, turning a potential base hit into an easy groundout.
Cano had another rough night in Kansas City, though.
The Yankees' All-Star was booed mercilessly for the second straight night by Royals fans who no doubt still remember his decision to snub Butler for the AL squad during last year's home run derby, which was hosted by the Royals as part of All-Star festivities.
Cano went 0 for 4 and struck out looking in the seventh, arguing with plate umpire Mark Wegner over the third strike. First base coach Mick Kelleher got between them and Girardi also ran onto the field to make sure Cano wouldn't be tossed from the game.
NOTES: The Yankees plan to use a pitcher to fill the 26th player on the roster for Monday's doubleheader at Cleveland. Girardi didn't know who it would be. ... Royals RF Jeff Francoeur was back in the starting lineup after having Friday night off. ... RHP Hiroki Kuroda (4-2) will pitch Sunday's series finale for the Yankees against Kansas City RHP Ervin Santana (3-1).