Royals host red-hot Yankees

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, the last team the Kansas City Royals need to see coming to town is the New York Yankees juggernaut.

The Yankees, who have the best record in the majors, will open a three-game series Friday with the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

On paper it looks like a mismatch. The Yankees are 28-12, while the Royals are 13-30. Kansas City has lost five straight and seven of eight.

After taking the Royals to the mountain top, back-to-back World Series in 2014-15 and winning it all in the latter year, manager Ned Yost is doing his best to remain upbeat.

“It’s something you have to work at,” Yost said. “It doesn’t come natural. I’ve had to tell myself in the middle of the game, ‘Shut up.’ You just got to understand the process and what we’re trying to accomplish, and what the boys are going through.

“We’re not playing sloppy baseball. We’re not walking guys, making errors and making base-running gaffes, and all the dumb stuff that tick you off as a manager. But the guys are playing hard and playing good baseball.”

They’re just not winning and on target for a 100-plus loss season.

Recently the starting pitching has betrayed the Royals. Opponents have scored in the first inning in six of the past seven games.

Jason Hammel gave up three runs in the first in a 5-3 loss Wednesday to the Rays. The previous night, Ian Kennedy yielded three runs in the first when Tampa Bay batted around.

“Beyond frustration, right now it’s just unacceptable, three spots every first inning,” Hammel said. “Just give them (our offense) a chance. We put their heads under water every single day and it’s tough to battle back every single game out. I’m obviously not very proud of the effort. I’ve just got to get better.”

The Royals will start right-hander Jakob Junis in the series opener. He has been the Royals’ most reliable starter this season with a 3-2 record and a 3.53 ERA in eight starts.

Junis faced the Yankees once last year as a rookie, permitting six runs in 5 2/3 innings in an 11-3 loss on the road.

Junis is 2-2 with a 4.44 ERA in four home starts. He has worked at least seven innings and allowed two earned runs or less in four of his eight starts.

While the Royals are struggling, the Yankees are flexing their muscles. They lead the American League with 234 runs, while KC has scored 173.

And the Yankees are well rested, having not played since Tuesday and that was suspended in the sixth with the scored tied at 3 against the Washington Nationals.

They were to resume Wednesday in Washington D.C., plus play the regular scheduled game. Those Interleague contests were rained out and are scheduled to be made up June 18.

With both teams off Thursday, Yankee manager Aaron Boone, who is the son of former Royals catcher and manager Bob Boone, revised his rotation.

“It is a challenge, but one we’ve got to meet here,” Boone said. “Luckily, the guys in that room are really good at dealing with stuff. (Rainouts and rescheduling) are not perfect or ideal, but in the end, we’ll take advantage of it from a rest standpoint. It allows us to reset our pen a little bit. We’ll just look at it as a good chance to rest some of our guys.”

Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia was to start Wednesday, but instead he will start Friday. Sonny Gray, who was the Friday probable, will be pushed back to Sunday. Luis Severino, who was penciled in to start Sunday, will instead pitch Saturday. Domingo Germain, who was scheduled to start Saturday, will be available from the bullpen. He will likely start Tuesday at Texas.

The 37-year-old Sabathia is 2-0 with a 2.23 ERA in seven starts this season. He has allowed 32 hits and struck out 28 over 36 1/3 innings.

Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez and shortstop Alcides Escobar have a .154 average against Sabathia. Mike Moustakas is hitting .111 against him but does have a home run.

Sabathia, who made his major league debut at the age of 20 in 2001 with the Cleveland Indians, has a 239-146 career record with a 3.68 ERA.