The Yankees expect to be without their captain for a second straight game and their starting catcher for the first time this season Wednesday night when they continue their three-game series at Kauffman Stadium against the surprising Kansas City Royals.
Although the Yankees have reached 13 consecutive postseasons, they’ve made lukewarm starts a habit in recent years. Tuesday’s 5-2 loss in the opener of this series dropped New York to 4-4 for the fifth consecutive season.
The usually potent Yankee lineup is struggling, having scored three runs or fewer six times in the season’s first eight games. New York is batting .190 (11-for-58) with runners in scoring position.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez hasn’t had a terrible start, batting .276, but he struck out four times Tuesday for only the fourth time in his major league career.
Making matters tougher for the Yankees, Jeter missed Tuesday’s game with a strained left quadriceps muscle that is expected to keep him sidelined through at least the remainder of this series. After the three games with the Royals, New York’s road trip continues with a visit to arch-rival Boston.
Wilson Betemit, Jeter’s replacement at shortstop, had an RBI single Tuesday but struck out his other three times at bat.
Adding to the injury woes, Posada left Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning and will undergo an MRI exam for a “dead arm.”
“It’s part of the game. There’s times you’re going to be short-handed,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You’ve got to do the best you can. You get a guy who’s maybe nicked up for three or four days and you don’t necessarily want to DL him because then you lose him for 15.”
The Yankees aren’t used to lengthy stretches without the durable Jeter, but they are 7-8 since the start of the 2006 season in games he has missed. That pales in comparison to their 188-129 mark with their shortstop.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s young pitching staff has moved the Royals - last-place finishers in each of the last four seasons - into an early first-place tie with the Chicago White Sox atop the AL Central. Kansas City (5-2) has allowed just 18 total runs through its first seven games.
The solid mound work continued in the Royals’ home opener as Brian Bannister limited New York to two runs in five innings to improve to 2-0 in 2008. He was responsible for three of Rodriguez’s four strikeouts.
“Really, all I tried to do to was not get in a pattern with him,” Bannister said. “It just happened I made three perfect pitches on him when I had to. It’s nice to do that cause he is such a threat.”
Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will try to match Bannister’s 2-0 record when he takes the mound on Wednesday night.
Greinke arrived in the major leagues amid fanfare at age 20 in 2004, but compiled only a 21-35 record through his first four seasons in the majors.
Now 24 years old, the right-hander showed signs of coming into his own last Thursday, when he allowed one run and six hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory at Detroit.
Greinke is 1-2 with an 8.22 ERA in seven career appearances - four starts - versus the Yankees.
The Royals are off to their best start since opening 2003 with nine straight wins.
New York also sends a young starter to the mound in 23-year-old Ian Kennedy (0-1, 23.14). Unlike Greinke, though, Kennedy had a rough first outing of 2008, giving up six runs, four hits and four walks in 2 1-3 innings of last Thursday’s 13-4 loss to Tampa Bay.
The right-hander did not receive a decision in his only career start against Kansas City, allowing two runs, seven hits and walking three in five innings last Sept. 7 at Kauffman Stadium in a game the Yankees won 3-2.