The Kansas City Royals gun for their fourth win in five tries this afternoon as they close out a four-game set against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City has the second-fewest wins of any team in the American League and is sitting in fourth place in the AL Central, 5 1/2 games off the pace, yet the team found a way to dismiss the mighty Bronx Bombers for the second time in three days on Saturday with a 5-1 triumph at home. The Royals, winners of just two of 13 contests in their own stadium in 2012.
Felipe Paulino proceeded to set down the first 11 batters he faced and ended up tossing six shutout innings, permitting four hits and a pair of walks while striking out six, en route to the victory.
Billy Butler provided a large portion of the offense for the hosts as he belted two doubles and drove in three runs. Alex Gordon added four hits, a pair of runs scored and an RBI for KC.
"If you could jump out to a lead on everyone, it would be nice. Tonight that was good that we got an opportunity in the first. I think it set the tone and Paulino was great," Butler said.
Hiroki Kuroda gave up three runs -- two earned -- on six hits and three walks for the Yankees as he was saddled with his four loss in six decisions.
Curtis Granderson, who had a pair of doubles in the outing, has reached base safely in a career-best 26 straight games but that still wasn't enough to jump-start the New York offense.
The Yankees, now 4 1/2 games out of first and in fourth place in the AL East, hurt themselves by finishing 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Derek Jeter, who had six hits in the first two games of the series, came up empty in four at-bats on Saturday and watched his batting average drop from .404 to .390.
Trying to get on track after several disappointing outings thus far, Phil Hughes heads to the mound for the Yankees this afternoon. The 25-year old has just one win in five starts in 2012, his 7.48 ERA being buoyed by seven home runs issued in just 21 2/3 innings of action.
The California native was on the losing end of a 7-1 decision versus Baltimore the first of May as he allowed four runs on four hits -- two home runs -- through 5 2/3 innings. Hughes did manage to match his season high with six strikeouts and issued just one walk in the contest.
For his career, Hughes has a record of 2-1 with a 6.75 ERA versus the Royals.
Countering for Kansas City is Luke Hochevar who is anxious to bounce back from a very discouraging performance against Detroit on the road Tuesday. After allowing just three combined runs in his previous two contests the right- hander was bombed for nine earned runs on 12 hits and three walks in only four innings of work.
Now an even 2-2 on the season overall, Hochevar has pitched against New York three times in his career and has an 0-1 record and a 6.00 ERA to show for his efforts.
With the Yankees now dealing with the loss of Mariano Rivera to an ACL injury and the shuffling of the bullpen to keep it from falling apart, it is difficult to overlook the fact that the NY pitching staff is 11th in the league in ERA at 4.38 and not a single starter has managed to throw a complete game as of yet. If not for an offense that is tied for second in the league in batting at .270 and is first in the majors with 41 home runs there's no telling where the Yankees would be right now.