Yankees target sweep at Kansas City

Bartolo Colon hopes to keep the New York Yankees atop the game sweep of the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

The Yankees took over sole possession of first place in the American League East on Tuesday, as Robinson Cano's three-run homer in the fourth inning provided the difference in New York's 9-7 triumph.

Cano drove in four total runs while Russell Martin hit a two-run single for the Yankees, who moved a half-game ahead of Boston -- which split a doubleheader with Tampa Bay -- for the division lead.

New York won the opener of this three-game series on Monday by a 7-4 score, and has claimed five of its last six games. All of those victories have at least one thing in common -- lots of offense. The Yankees have totaled a minimum of six runs, and a combined 40 runs, in those five wins.

They did their damage Tuesday against Kansas City rookie starter Danny Duffy (3-7), who allowed a career-high eight runs in three-plus innings.

"If you score seven runs, you should be able to win a ball game," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "We think we've come a long way as an organization in a lot of areas. We still have to continue to refine our starting pitching and get better in that department."

New York starter Ivan Nova (12-4) won his fifth consecutive start and his eighth consecutive decision despite allowing seven runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"We won the game. Bottom line is we won the game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Hoping for that same kind of support this evening will be the resurgent Colon, who is 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA on the year. Colon did not get a decision on Thursday against Anaheim, but pitched well, surrendering a pair of runs and five hits in six innings.

He is 15-8 lifetime versus the Royals with a 4.80 ERA in 26 starts.

Kansas City, meanwhile, will counter with left-hander Bruce Chen, who has struggled mightily in his career against the Yankees, going 1-5 with a 6.71 ERA in 16 games (12 starts). He also hasn't beaten them since 2005 while with Baltimore.

Chen, though, enters tonight's tilt having won his last two starts and is coming off a brilliant effort on Friday in Chicago that saw him allow just a hit over six scoreless innings to run his record to 7-5 on the year, while lowering his ERA to 4.15.

"He's the winningest pitcher we've had here in the last two years, and it's because he's crafty, he doesn't give in, he changes speeds and keeps the ball down," Yost said after that outing.

However, New York is 26-10 against left-handed starters this season and has posted wins in 14 of its last 17 games against them. The Yanks are also batting .285 against all left-handed pitchers and have hit 47 homers against southpaws this season.

Kansas City took two of three from the Yanks earlier in the year. These teams split four games at Kauffman Stadium a year ago.