Pettitte toes rubber in matchup with Royals

Andy Pettitte tries to follow up a spectacular performance his last time out when the New York Yankees conclude a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium.

After struggling a bit in his return to the big leagues on May 20, Pettitte was absolutely magnificent against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, scattering four hits and striking out nine over eight scoreless innings to even his record at 1-1 and lower his earned run average to 2.51.

"Big league W's are precious," Pettitte said. "It's a good feeling any time you get a win. It's what we're playing for, to win games and help this team to win. I didn't come back not to help us win. I just feel like I'm doing my job, really."

Pettitte, of course, retired after the 2010 season, but returned this spring. He seemed a little rusty in his debut, giving up four runs in 6 1/3 innings to Seattle, but on Friday, resembled the pitcher who was a three-time All-Star and one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time.

"I feel like I can do this," Pettitte said. "I took a long time to come to this decision, to come back. I waited until I threw my bullpens and felt like I could do this. I feel the mind is getting back there, and for me, I'm just hoping and praying the body holds up."

In 23 career games against Kansas City, Pettitte is 13-3 with a 3.48 ERA.

While Pettitte will be making the 482nd start of his career tonight, Kansas City will hand the ball to a pitcher making his first in lefty Will Smith.

Smith has spent five seasons in the minor league systems of both the Royals and Angels. He joined the Kansas City organization during the 2010 season, coming over with Sean O'Sullivan in a trade that sent Alberto Callaspo to Anaheim.

In nine starts with Triple-A Omaha this season, Smith went 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA.

Smith will be facing a Yankees team that has had trouble scoring runs of late, but one that scored just enough to pull out a 3-2 win on Tuesday.

Robinson Cano belted a solo home run and Phil Hughes pitched six strong innings, while Rafael Soriano worked around a ground-rule double in the ninth to earn his third save of the season.

"I thought he used his changeup real effectively," remarked Yankees skipper Joe Girardi about Hughes. "I thought he used his fastball. I thought his curveball was pretty good tonight, so pleased with the way he threw the ball."

Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson had an RBI apiece for New York, which avoided losing four straight games for the first time this season and rebounded from Monday's 6-0 loss in the series opener. The Yankees won for just the second time in their last eight games.

Jeff Francoeur homered off Hughes and Humberto Quintero added a run-scoring double for the Royals, whose road winning streak was stopped at five games.

The Yankees and Royals split a four-game series in Kansas City from May 3-6.