(AP) — 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.
Pettitte will try to win his 10th straight decision against the slumping Kansas City Royals on Saturday night and help the New York Yankees match a season high with their fourth straight victory.
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.