The Yankees' offense was stunted over their last homestand. But Friday night at Kauffman Stadium showed a step in the right direction, especially for one of their struggling sluggers.
Catcher Brian McCann busted out of a small slump (two extra base hits in his last eight games) with a three run double in the Yankees' 4-2 win to open the four-game wraparound series.
Saturday's starter David Phelps (1-3, 4.11 ERA), who has only received an average of 2.89 runs of support in his six starts, hopes the offensive surge continues in the rematch. His last outing against the Mariners was effective until the seventh inning, when he allowed the go-ahead runs to break a 2-2 tie.
Opposing Phelps will be lefty Danny Duffy, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Orioles on May 17, allowing just two hits in a 1-0 Royals win. The lefty's next two starts were rocky as he gave up a total of 11 runs. Then, in his most recent outing, Duffy shut out the Cardinals for six innings on one hit in a 6-0 victory.
Royals manager Ned Yost usually knows what he's going to get with his three veterans starters -- James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas.
"You know that they're going to battle through and give you a chance," Yost said.
But with his two younger starters, Duffy and Yordano Ventura, he's not so sure.
"With young guys -- we talked about it early in the year with Ventura, and Duffy's the same," Yost said. "You just don't know what you're going to get from start to start. They can be absolutely lights out or they can be out of the game in the fourth inning.
"It's all part of learning how to compete up here. Once you take a breath and drop your guard for a second, they're going to spank you."
Yankees: Girardi being patient with Beltran
Manager Joe Girardi is prepared to be patient with outfielder Carlos Beltran as he attempts to work himself back into a groove after returning on Thursday from a stint on the disabled list due to a bone spur in his right elbow.
"Each guy could be different," Girardi said. "Sometimes, you might have a guy who comes out hot as anything and sometimes it might take him a few days to get into the swing of it and feel comfortable." Girardi believes the return of Beltran deepens the lineup overall. With the Yankees in a stretch of 13 consecutive games without a day off, the skipper plans to give some regulars periodic breathers.
"He's a middle-of-the-order guy who gives you power and he's a switch-hitter, so it makes it tougher for other clubs," Girardi said. "I hope everybody gets hot. That would be a great thing. Then I'd really have problems [making out the lineup]."
Royals: Hosmer will stay in three-hole
First baseman Eric Hosmer has been struggling at the plate. Since May 1, he's hit only .233 (34-for-146) and has just one home run this season, connecting on May 5 at San Diego.
Alex Gordon, on the other hand, has been hitting rather well. Hosmer has been batting third and Gordon fifth most of the time. So the question comes up, why not switch the two in the batting order?
"Would I wish [Hosmer would] be hitting better so we don't have to answer these questions? Yeah," Yost said. "But it's not going to change anything I'm going to do. He's going to produce his runs from that spot."
Yost believes that every hitter goes through up-and-down periods and that the No. 3 hole is the best spot for Hosmer long-term. He's batted there 45 times this year and Gordon has hit in the fifth spot 53 times.
• Left-hander CC Sabathia continues to make strides after going on the disabled list on May 11 with right knee inflammation.
"He'll continue to play catch while we're on this road trip and then we'll see where he is when we get home," Girardi said. "It's about doing the work and seeing how he feels the next day."
Yankees reliever Dellin Betances is allowing just 6.69 baserunners per nine innings, which is the third-best mark among relievers in the American League.
• FOX will televise Saturday night's game to 61 percent of the country. The starting time has been moved back five minutes to 7:15 p.m. ET.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.