The chances of the New York Yankees earning a split of a four-game series versus the Kansas City Royals are high with Andy Pettitte slated to pitch Thursday in the Bronx.
A boost from star shortstop Derek Jeter could help, too.
Pettitte is 10-0 with a 3.43 earned run average in 14 starts against the Royals since Sept. 4, 2000. He beat them with seven innings of two-run ball on May 11 and is an eye-popping 15-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 25 career games (23 starts) against Kansas City. New York is 19-6 in that stretch.
The veteran left-hander was able to end his four-start winless drought the last time out and held on for the win over Baltimore on Saturday, allowing four runs, three of which were earned, and nine hits through 6 2/3 innings of a 5-4 victory. Pettitte is now 1-3 with an unflattering 5.46 earned run average in his last five starts and 6-6 with a 4.37 ERA in 15 starts overall.
Pettitte needs to work on his 2-4 mark in eight home appearances.
More importantly, Jeter will be in the lineup as a designated hitter for his first appearance of the season. An early report on the club's official website had general manager Brian Cashman confirming that Jeter will be activated off the disabled list to face the Royals in this series finale.
Then a picture of the Yankees' lineup on Twitter had Jeter penciled in at the DH spot and batting second behind Ichiro Suzuki.
Jeter played Wednesday night in a rehab game with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He competed for seven innings and said he felt good afterward. Jeter, who appeared in four rehab games, hasn't played at the major league level all season while recovering from a broken left ankle he suffered during Game 1 of last year's American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Jeter was expected to come back earlier this season, but then in mid-April doctors discovered a small crack in the area from the previous injury, which delayed his return. The Yankees designated Travis Ishikawa for assignment to make room on the roster for Jeter.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez is also close to joining his teammates, too. Rodriguez, though, could be facing a suspension for his alleged link to Biogenesis in MLB's latest doping scandal.
New York ended its three-game slide with Wednesday's 8-1 beating of the Royals, as All-Star Robinson Cano finished 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI and Lyle Overbay clubbed a grand slam.
Ivan Nova pitched well again and tossed eight innings of one-run ball, striking out six and walking a pair of batters. Nova went the distance in his previous start with two runs earned and 11 K's.
"It should build his confidence. Getting him back on track was very important for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Nova.
Travis Hafner departed with a left foot contusion, while Brett Gardner was replaced due to a right leg contusion. Both players had X-rays, which turned up negative, and are day-to-day.
The Yankees, who opened July with a season-high six straight wins, are 3-3 on a 10-game homestand and will host Minnesota this weekend.
Kansas City had won two straight and five of seven games until Wednesday's loss in which Wade Davis was tagged for eight runs in five innings. He served up the homers to Cano and Overbay.
"The pitch to Cano, I thought, was a pretty good pitch," Davis said. "It would have gotten me out of that inning, but he put a pretty good swing on it. I've seen him do it before, and unfortunately, tonight it was against me."
Eric Hosmer had two hits and drove in the team's only run for the Royals, who outscored the Yankees, 8-2, in the first two meetings. Kansas City will continue its road trip with three games at Cleveland this weekend.
The Royals will send out Ervin Santana in this series finale and he has registered four straight no-decisions. Santana has allowed three runs in each of his previous three starts and is coming off Saturday's 4-3 win versus Oakland in which he lasted seven innings and allowed seven hits.
Santana hasn't won since June 13 at Tampa Bay and has an even record at 5-5 in 17 total starts to go along with a 2.90 ERA. He lost to New York on May 12, when he was reached for four runs in 6 1/3 frames of a 4-2 setback. In 15 career starts against the Yankees, the righty is 5-7 with a 5.89 ERA.
The Royals were swept by the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium from May 10-12.