Yankees-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

Derek Jeter has been nearly impossible for the Kansas City Royals to get out lately. That's a feeling the rest of the American League is experiencing this season.

Jeter looks to improve his league-leading batting average and continue his torrid hitting against the Royals as the New York Yankees continue a four-game series Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Jeter entered this series after a rare hitless performance in Wednesday's 5-0 loss to Baltimore, but rebounded with four hits in Thursday's series opener. He picked up two more hits - including his fifth homer - to help New York (14-12) end a three-game skid with a 6-2 victory Friday.

The Yankees got a lift before the game when closer Mariano Rivera vowed to return next season from a torn ACL and meniscus damage in his right knee rather than retire.

"We lost three in a row. We didn't finish up the homestand the way we wanted. We had to deal with what we had to deal with yesterday. I thought it was important that we bounce back," manager Joe Girardi said. "We cashed in four runs with two outs. It was outstanding."

Jeter is 15 for 25 (.600) with seven RBIs in his last five games against the Royals (8-17). The Yankees captain leads the AL with a .404 average and the majors with 15 multihit games. He hit only six home runs last season, his fifth coming Sept. 4.

Mark Teixeira - mired in a 5-for-30 slump - had a pair of hits Friday, including his first home run in 11 games.

New York's six runs matched its total from the previous four games.

Offense also has been a problem for Kansas City - particularly at home, where it's lost 11 of 12 this season. Since scoring 19 runs in their first three games at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals have managed only 24 in the past nine.

Mike Moustakas has been one of the team's few consistent producers. He is batting .415 (17 for 41) with two homers and eight RBIs in his last 11 games.

Moustakas will get his first look at Hiroki Kuroda (2-3, 3.69 ERA), who seeks his first road win in a Yankees uniform. Since getting hit hard in his season debut, the right-hander has been very good in three of his last four starts. He was excellent for a second straight outing Monday, limiting visiting Baltimore to one run and four hits over seven innings in a 2-1 victory.

Kuroda has never faced the Royals, but Jeff Francoeur went 3 for 6 against him while both were in the NL.

Felipe Paulino will make his season debut for Kansas City following a stint on the disabled list with a right forearm strain. The right-hander went 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA in 21 games - 20 starts - for the Royals last season after he was acquired from Colorado.

Paulino pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings Monday in his second rehab start for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

"It's the Yankees, but I'll take it like any other team," Paulino told the Royals' official website. "I'll just go up there with my game plan and do the best I can do to give a chance to the Royals to win the game."

The right-hander struggled in his lone career start against New York, yielding five runs, eight hits and five walks over 5 1-3 innings in a 7-4 loss on Aug. 15.

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