Kennedy takes the hill as Royals look for a split with Yankees

Ian Kennedy ranks among the AL leaders in ERA and opponent batting average (.209).

Chris Carlson/AP

While the short-handed Kansas City Royals have started to show some life offensively, the New York Yankees’ rash of injuries may be catching up to them.

The Royals haven’t needed to score a ton of runs for Ian Kennedy.

The former Yankee will try to help Kansas City win back-to-back games for the first time in almost three weeks and earn a series split Thursday night in the Bronx.

Since totaling 16 runs and hitting .233 with two homers over an eight-game stretch, the Royals (16-17) scored 28 and hit .282 with 10 home runs in the past five. They’ve spent the past six games without third baseman Mike Moustakas, who has a team-high seven long balls.

Salvador Perez set a positive tone Wednesday with a first-inning three-run homer, Lorenzo Cain stayed hot with two RBIs and Eric Hosmer added two hits in a 7-3 win that snapped a three-game losing streak. Cain is 11 for 25 over his last six and Hosmer is batting .362 with five homers and 11 RBIs in his past 16.

The Yankees (13-19) averaged 6.3 runs over the previous four games before finishing with seven hits and going 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

Mark Teixeira might help if he’s able to return after missing his second straight game due to neck spasms. Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t ready because of a strained hip that has cost him the past five games and Alex Rodriguez is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

The Yankees will try to avoid settling for a split of this four-game series while facing Kennedy (4-2, 2.13 ERA), who spent his first three seasons with New York. He ranks among the AL leaders in ERA and opponent batting average (.209).

The right-hander is looking to win three straight starts for the first time since September 2014 after giving up one run over 12 innings in his last two. He allowed four hits and struck out six over seven innings in Saturday’s 7-0 win at Cleveland.

"It’s hard to throw shutouts," Kennedy, who retired 14 in a row at one point, told MLB’s official website. "You try to put up some zeros, but it’s not easy. You don’t really go out with that intent. You go out and try to get guys out one at a time."

Brian McCann is 5 for 16 with two home runs off Kennedy, who hasn’t faced New York since August 2013. Starlin Castro is 1 for 10 in the matchup since 2013, while Carlos Beltran’s only two hits in 10 at-bats since 2012 were homers.

Beltran is one home run shy of 400 for his career after going 6 for 13 with three solo shots and two doubles over the first three games of this series.

New York’s Nathan Eovaldi (2-2, 4.78) hopes to build on Saturday’s performance when he limited Boston to two runs over eight innings in an 8-2 home win. He threw 77 of his 107 pitches for strikes and topped 100 mph five times.

"When I’m able to locate (my fastball) inside and outside and do that, I feel like I’m able to get a lot more quicker outs," the right-hander said.

Eovaldi was solid in his only meeting with the Royals, allowing one run over seven innings in a 14-1 home win May 25.