Mariano Rivera returns to Kansas City for the first time since suffering a torn ACL on Friday when the New York Yankees open a three- game series against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
In what was supposed to be the final year of Rivera's remarkable career, his season was cut short last May 3 when his knee buckled while shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.
The future Hall of Famer did not want the final image of him being carted off a field, so he returned for a 19th season. And he hasn't missed a beat.
Rivera picked up his 13th save in as many opportunities on Thursday, as the Yankees claimed a series win in Colorado with a 3-1 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field.
The 43-year-old Rivera has saved five of the Yankees' last six wins, nine of their past 11 and 11 of their previous 14. His 13 saves to start the year is the second-longest season-opening streak of his career. He saved his first 28 in 2008.
"The only thing that will come back to me is just knowing that I got hurt there," Rivera said about his return to Kansas City. "But I mean, I will enjoy it definitely because that moment and seeing where I am right now, that's what is gratifying. I'm thanking the Lord for me being here."
Rivera has also converted 27 straight saves against the Royals, dating back to August 18, 1998.
Hoping to give Rivera a chance to pitch on Friday will be Yankees' starter Phil Hughes, who is coming off his best effort of the season. Hughes picked up his first win of the season on Saturday against Oakland, as he scattered four hits and struck out nine over eight scoreless innings to improve to 1-2 to go along with a 3.60 ERA.
"I feel like I'm kind of clicking right now with what I'm trying to do," said Hughes, who has a 1.93 ERA over his last four starts. "I feel like I'm executing pitches at a better rate than I did early on. As long as I can hit the glove and stay there, and maintain my velocity and strength late in the game, then I feel like I'll be pretty good."
Hughes has faced the Royals seven times (6 starts) and is 4-1 against them with a 5.51 ERA.
Kansas City, meanwhile, salvaged the finale of its three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, as Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer belted two-run homers in the fourth inning, while Jeremy Guthrie remained perfect on the season, leading the Royals to a 6-2 win.
Mike Moustakas added a solo shot for the Royals, who avoided a sweep and ended a three-game losing streak.
Guthrie (5-0) gave up seven hits and two runs -- one earned -- over his six- inning outing.
"When you're part of a meaningful game that's a positive," said Guthrie. "We had a nice April and we're trying to stay consistent here and compete against good teams and do what we're capable of doing."
Heading to the hill for the Royals on Friday will be righty Wade Davis, who is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA. Davis did not get a decision on Sunday against Chicago, despite surrendering just a run and five hits in six innings of a 6-5 win.
Davis is 2-3 in 10 games (6 starts) against the Yankees with a 3.96 ERA.
The Yankees took four of seven from the Royals last season.