Preview: Royals seek series win over Yankees

Andy Pettitte has not lost to the Kansas City Royals in nearly 14 years. Ervin Santana hasn’t been able to beat the New York Yankees as a starter in almost five.

The Yankees would certainly like both trends to continue Thursday as they go for a split of this four-game home series after breaking out of an offensive funk.

Pettitte (6-6, 4.37 ERA) has gone 10-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 14 starts against the Royals since losing Aug. 18, 1999. The most recent came May 11, when he threw seven innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts in a 3-2 road victory.

The left-hander has earned the win in three straight starts against Kansas City with a 2.14 ERA, and is 15-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 23 career matchups.

Pettitte ended a four-game stretch in which he was 0-3 by pitching 6 2/3 innings and giving up four runs in a 5-4 victory over Baltimore on Saturday.

“I’ve been frustrated,” he said. “Every decision you’re making, you feel like it’s not the right one.”

Pettitte can pass Hall of Famer Bob Gibson for sole possession of 44th place on the all-time wins list with his 252nd on Thursday. That would also move him within one victory of tying another Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell.

Pettitte hadn’t received much support prior to his last outing, getting 14 runs in a five-start stretch, but his team might be poised to score more for him in this game. New York (49-42) ended a three-game losing streak in which it scored one run each time with an 8-1 victory Wednesday. Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer and Lyle Overbay added a grand slam.

“We needed that really bad,” Cano said.

Santana (5-5, 2.90) taking the ball also may bode well for Pettitte and New York. The right-hander, in his first year with Kansas City (43-45) after eight seasons with the Angels, has gone 0-6 with a 6.63 ERA in nine starts against the Yankees since beating them Aug. 1, 2008.

The latest was May 12, with Santana giving up four runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 4-2 loss, surrendering homers to Cano and Vernon Wells. Cano has six home runs and two doubles among his 13 hits off Santana and is batting .325 in the matchup.

The slugger went 3 for 4 on Wednesday and is batting .438 during a five-game hitting streak.

Santana has gone four starts without a decision and hasn’t lost in his last seven outings. However, he has posted a 4.26 ERA in his last three starts after compiling a 0.94 mark in the previous four.

Santana pitched seven innings and gave up three runs in a 4-3 win over Oakland on Saturday.

“Ervin was great, really threw the ball well,” manager Ned Yost told the team’s official website.

Wells went 2 for 2 on Wednesday and has gone 10 for 20 in seven games in July. He’s 9 for 27 with three doubles in his career against Santana.

Wells may get a chance to continue his hot hitting in this game, as he pinch-hit for Travis Hafner after the designated hitter suffered a bruised left foot Wednesday. Leadoff man Brett Gardner also departed with a bruised right leg and both players are day to day.

“I feel like we stung a few balls but right at people, so we have nothing to show for it. We just have to bounce back (Thursday),” Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said.

Billy Butler is 5 for 16 with two home runs and two doubles off Pettitte.