The first weekend of interleague play might be what the New York Yankees need to overcome their recent rough stretch.
After a stellar pitching performance from one of their veterans, the Yankees try for a seventh consecutive interleague home victory Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds.
In his second start since coming back from a one-year retirement, Andy Pettitte allowed four hits and struck out nine in eight innings for a 4-0 over Cincinnati on Friday. Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer and Robinson Cano added a solo shot as the Yankees (21-18) snapped a three-game skid by matching their run total from that span.
"You knew that we've been struggling,'' said Pettitte, who won his first game since July 2010. "Like I tell these young guys, big league Ws are precious."
New York, which has the majors' best interleague record at 158-107, recorded nine hits after being held to 13 over the previous three games. The Yankees, though, went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and are 3 for their last 48 in that department.
However, five of Ibanez's eight hits in his last 31 at-bats have left the park. He's batted .364 (12 for 33) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in his last seven games versus Cincinnati.
Alex Rodriguez was mired in a 3-for-18 slump before delivering two hits and one RBI on Friday. His 187 interleague RBIs are the most in the majors, and he's batting .391 in his last six games against the Reds.
While Pettitte's gem will be a tough act to follow, the Yankees hope right-hander Ivan Nova (4-1, 5.44 ERA) can make his scheduled start Saturday after spraining and bruising his ankle in Monday's 8-5 loss at Baltimore.
"I wouldn't think anything could change now," manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees' official website. "The only thing that could change is if, when he warmed up (Saturday), he felt it and it was bothersome to him. That would be it."
Nova, who allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings against the Orioles, gave up one run, four hits and struck out seven in eight innings of a 5-3 win at Cincinnati on June 20.
If Nova can't go, Freddy Garcia - 0-2 with an 8.27 ERA - could make his first start since April 28.
Whoever takes the mound for the Yankees will try to help hand the Reds (19-19) a third consecutive loss. Shut out for the first time in 2012, Cincinnati was held to four hits while losing for the third time in four games.
Cincinnati's Homer Bailey (1-3, 4.35) looks to build on one of his best starts of the season as he faces the Yankees for the first time. The right-hander allowed one run in 6 2-3 innings while failing to factor in the decision of a 3-1 win at Atlanta on Monday.
"It was encouraging," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website.
Bailey is 3-4 with a 6.00 ERA in 10 interleague starts, and 0-3 with a 5.06 ERA in his last four since beating Cleveland on June 27, 2009.
Left fielder Chris Heisey is 8 for 14 in the last five games.
The Yankees, meanwhile, hope to have slugger Mark Teixeira back in the lineup after he missed the opener with a lingering cough.