Royals continue push toward playoffs in Bronx

( - The Kansas City Royals continue their quest for an American League Central title on Friday night against the playoff-hopeful New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series in the Bronx.

The Royals are a game up on the Detroit Tigers for first place in the division and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. Kansas City had dropped three in a row prior to the set, but rebounded nicely and finished off the sweep with a 4-1 won on Wednesday.

Alex Gordon hit a two-run homer and Jason Vargas pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings.

"He was sharp tonight, had his good command," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "Just pitched a great game."

Following this series, the Royals are set to visit the Tigers for three games. It is same Detroit club that New York is currently chasing for the league's second wild card spot, with the Yankees four games back of the Tigers.

New York is coming off a much-needed series win over the Boston Red Sox, winning Thursday's rubber match 5-4. The Yankees were down a run going into the bottom of the ninth, but got solo homers from Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley to win the contest.

Headley drove a full-count splitter well into the seats in right center with one out.

"Every one is fun," said Headley of the walk-off hit. "There isn't a whole lot of better feelings in sports, in baseball than getting a hit like that."

Derek Jeter had a two-run double earlier for the Yankees, with Carlos Beltran adding an RBI single in the triumph.

Michael Pineda will pitch tonight's opener for New York and is coming off his first loss in four starts since returning from injury, though he pitched well enough to win.

The right-hander gave up a pair of runs over six innings at Toronto on Saturday, but lost a 2-0 decision. He fell to 3-3 on the year with a 2.09 earned run average in eight starts.

Pineda is 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA in three career starts versus the Royals, who he beat on Aug. 25 with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball, striking out five.

James Shields faced Pineda in that start for the Royals and struggled in an 8-1 loss, charged with six runs over 6 2/3 innings. He gave up solo homers to Stephen Drew and Martin Prado, falling to 9-16 lifetime versus the Yankees with a 4.33 ERA.

The right-hander bounced back with a solid no-decision versus Cleveland on Saturday, allowing a run on five hits and a walk over seven innings. That outing left Shields 12-7 on the year with a 3.38 ERA.

These two clubs have split four meetings this season.