The Kansas City Royals are beginning one of their biggest road trips in quite some time.
The AL Central leaders look for a fourth straight victory in Friday night's opener of a three-game series against a New York Yankees team that figures to be desperate.
Kansas City (77-61) leads Detroit by one game entering this six-game trip that starts in the Bronx and finishes with a huge three-game set in Comerica Park. The Royals - seeking their first playoff appearance since winning the 1985 World Series - began the week with a three-game sweep of Texas before they had Thursday off, and manager Ned Yost knows that success against baseball's worst team means little heading into this critical stretch.
"We got to go into New York, we got three tough pitching matchups," Yost said. "We got three tough pitching matchups in Detroit. We got to go play good baseball."
The Yankees (72-66) rallied for a 5-4 victory Thursday over Boston. They trailed going into the bottom of the ninth before Mark Teixeira led off with a tying homer and Chase Headley added a one-out, walk-off blast.
''It's a great win, and we needed it,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ''And we're going to need a lot more.''
New York, which has won two straight after losing five of seven, remained four games behind the Tigers for the AL's second wild card.
The Yankees played a second straight game without Martin Prado, who is hitting .383 in his last 15 games but has a left hamstring strain. Prado sounds cautious about when he can come back.
''I don't want to be a hero and go there and get hurt and then not play until the end of the season,'' he said. ''So I'd rather miss a couple days and make sure that my leg is OK to play the 20 or 25 games we've got left.''
Alex Gordon has seven homers and 12 RBIs in his last 16 games for Kansas City, which has split four meetings with New York.
Gordon is just a .157 hitter at the current Yankee Stadium, where Billy Butler is batting .311.
Both teams will start right-handers who faced each other when these teams last met Aug. 25.
Shields (12-7, 3.38) bounced back by allowing one run over seven innings Saturday in a 3-2, 11-inning defeat to Cleveland. He is 2-6 with a 4.32 ERA in nine starts at the current Yankee Stadium, matching Toronto's Mark Buehrle for the most losses there by a visiting pitcher.
The Royals have won 12 of the last 14 road starts by Shields, who has limited Teixeira to six hits in 48 at-bats with no homers and 15 strikeouts.
Pineda has given up two runs or fewer in all eight starts, allowing that many in six-plus innings Saturday in a 2-0 loss at Toronto.
Gordon is 2 for 10 against him and Butler 1 for 9.
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