The hottest offense in the majors matched up against one of the worst pitching staffs in the American League has helped keep the New York Yankees rolling.
The surging Yankees look to stretch their win streak to six as they continue a four-game series Wednesday night against the Kansas City Royals.
The Yankees jumped out to an early lead for the second straight game and coasted to a 9-4 victory Tuesday.
While the Yankees remained 7 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston, which also has won five straight, they did pull within 4 1/2 games of Cleveland, the AL wild-card leader.
“Right now, I’m looking at we’re seven games over and we’re heading in the right direction,” manager Joe Torre said. “You look, and you see the deficit going down, and I don’t want to send the wrong message. We still need to get our record where we need it to be.”
After pounding Tampa Bay’s woeful pitching for 45 runs in their previous three games, the Yankees have lit up the Royals (43-56) for 18 runs and 26 hits in the first two games of this series.
The 63 runs are the most the Yankees have scored in a five-game span since they had 68 from May 21-25, 1936.
Matsui is 10-for-23 with three homers and 10 RBIs over the last five games while Damon is 9-for-21 with eight RBIs in that span.
“When you’re 14 1/2 back, you don’t feel too good,” Damon said. “You’re in a bit more of a desperation mode. If you don’t turn things around, then this great team that’s assembled here won’t be together too much longer. We still have a lot of work to do, but it seems things are a lot funner now.”
Kansas City entered this series with four wins in five games, but has been outscored 11-2 in the first two innings of the first two games.
The Royals, 11th in the AL with a 4.57 ERA, have lost three straight and 12 of 14 against the Yankees.
New York’s Mike Mussina (4-7, 4.97 ERA) looks to record his first road win in nearly three months. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.13 ERA in six starts away from home since winning at Texas on May 3. Mussina, who only has two victories in his last 12 starts overall, has received two runs of support or fewer in six of his last eight outings.
He lasted 4 2-3 innings Friday in a 14-4 home loss to Tampa Bay, allowing six runs, seven hits and three walks.
Mussina is 15-7 with a 3.02 ERA in 31 starts against the Royals. He had won three straight decisions against them before losing his last start at Kansas City on Sept. 5.
Gil Meche (7-6, 3.63) hopes to extend a personal four-game winning streak. The Royals ace is 4-0 with a 4.60 ERA in his last seven starts after losing his previous five. Meche was sharp in a 10-2 victory Friday at Detroit, yielding two runs and five hits in seven innings without a walk and five strikeouts.
This will be Meche’s first start against the Yankees with the Royals. He was 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts against them while with Seattle.
Alex Rodriguez, two home runs shy of 500 for his career, is 8-for-20 (.400) with four doubles and three homers against Meche.