Yankees-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Yankees hope to provide the support they could not during Hiroki Kuroda's last start and record their first road sweep of the Kansas City Royals in almost six years.

Kuroda looks to continue his strong spring while trying to help the Yankees to a season-high fifth straight win Sunday against the struggling Royals.

Kuroda (4-2, 2.30 ERA) has lasted seven innings in each of his last two starts, and his lone mistake was a two-run homer to Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez in New York's 2-0 loss at Coors Field on Tuesday.

"He pitched well enough to win, that's for sure," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

New York (22-13) had provided the right-hander with an average of 5.75 runs of support in his previous six starts, but managed four hits Tuesday.

"Kuroda threw the ball well,'' teammate Vernon Wells said. "We just couldn't do anything to support him.''

His teammates totaled one run while he went 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA against the Royals last season.

The Yankees, however, have not lost since Kuroda's last start and are in position to sweep the Royals (18-15) in Kansas City for the first time since Sept. 7-9, 2007. Wells hit a two-run, go-ahead homer in the fifth inning and made a running catch in the gap to end Saturday's 3-2 win.

Mariano Rivera improved to 14 for 14 on save chances Saturday. The 43-year-old, who will retire at the end of the season, has converted 28 straight against the Royals. His latest came just over a year after he tore the ACL in his right knee while shagging balls in the Kauffman Stadium outfield.

"I think Mo said it best, as an athlete, you can get hurt anywhere,'' Girardi said. "It just happened to be here. ... I'm sure it was good for him to get out there.''

Wells is batting .353 (6 for 17) with two homers and five RBIs in his last four games.

New York hopes to continue its recent success against scheduled Kansas City starter Ervin Santana (3-1, 2.36), who is 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA in eight starts against the Yankees since he pitched eight strong innings Aug. 1, 2008, for the Los Angeles Angels.

"A lot of people just try to do too much. I know they're a good team," Santana told the Royals' official website. "They're aggressive. But if you make your pitches, you're going to get them out."

The right-hander has thrived in his new home at Kauffman Stadium, where he's allowed two earned runs in 23 innings while going 2-0 in three starts.

Santana's last outing came at Baltimore on Tuesday, when he gave up three first-inning runs and lasted six while not factoring in the decision of a 4-3 loss. Seven of the 12 runs he's yielded this season have come in the first inning.

"The first inning was, like always, a little trouble, but after that I settled down, threw a lot of strikes and put guys away," he said.

Billy Butler hit his fourth home run for Kansas City, which has lost five of six since winning four in a row.

Butler is 2 for 19 with six strikeouts in the last five games.

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