Yankees try to get on track vs. Indians

Hoping to avoid an eighth loss in their last nine games, the New York Yankees welcome the Cleveland Indians to Yankee Stadium on Monday to begin a three-game series.

New York has slipped into a tie with Tampa Bay for third place in the AL East standings, three games back of Boston. On Sunday, they fell to the Red Sox in a rubber match, 3-0, after rain ended the game in the middle of the sixth inning.

Hiroki Kuroda gave up three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings and received no help from a Yankees offense that has been held to four runs or less in every game during a 1-7 stretch. The lineup managed only two hits on Sunday and is hitting a collective .217 during its recent slide.

Cleveland opens a nine-game road trip after dropping two of three at home to the Rays over the weekend. Tampa Bay put an exclamation point on the series with an 11-run outburst in Sunday's finale, as five Indians pitchers combined to allow 14 hits.

The Tribe will give the ball to right-hander Justin Masterson, who has gone at least six innings in all but one of his 12 starts so far this season. On Wednesday, Masterson held the Reds to one run on four hits in six innings of work, striking out seven.

"When you thicken out, almost like your lineup, when you thicken out your rotation, it's amazing how it seems to make the next guy better," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Because on days when maybe they don't have their best stuff, you can bail them out, you know what I mean, with a fresher bullpen, so it just works in so many different ways to your advantage."

Cleveland has gone 23-8 this season when its starter lasts at least six innings.

Toeing the rubber for the Yankees is 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, who is making his first start since May 16 after a stint on the disabled list with a tight left trapezius muscle.

"I felt pretty confident it would just be the two weeks and that I would feel good coming back," Pettitte said. "I'm feeling good, and I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

"Obviously I know we haven't been playing as well as we were, but I want to do well. I want to go out there and do my job and give us a chance. I hope I give us a quality start. I've got as much incentive every time I go out there as I do no matter what situation we're in. I just want to go out there and get going again and get on a good roll."

The veteran left-hander faced off against the Indians on April 9 and yielded just one run on five hits over seven innings.

The Yankees have won eight of the last nine head-to-head meetings with the Tribe in the Bronx.