Out to avoid an 11th consecutive winless start, Guthrie looks to continue his solid pitching and perhaps work with a lead for the first time in nearly a month as the Kansas City Royals open a wraparound four-game set with the New York Yankees on Friday night.
Though Guthrie (2-5, 4.00 ERA) has lost his last five decisions, he's had nearly no help over his last four starts - going 0-3 despite a 2.57 ERA over 28 innings. The right-hander has been provided one run in that span, a third-inning RBI single by Norichika Aoki on May 21 in an eventual 3-1 defeat to the Chicago White Sox in which he did not get the loss.
Guthrie gamely tried to match zeroes with Toronto's Mark Buehrle on Sunday, but a solo homer by Dioner Navarro and a misplayed fly ball by Aoki resigned him to a 2-0 defeat. He has conceded only four runs in his last three starts and is the first pitcher to deal with an offensive drought this severe since Seattle's Felix Hernandez was backed with one run over 28 2-3 innings from July 21-Aug. 5, 2010.
"I've never seen a pitcher lose with zero earned runs," said an undaunted Guthrie, who hasn't pitched with a lead since May 11. "That's my goal every time."
Since 1974, no Royals pitcher has endured a similar lack of run support over a four-start span covering 28 or more innings. The offense sputtered again Thursday, but rookie Yordano Ventura allowed two runs in six innings before Kansas City used a three-run sixth to beat St. Louis 3-2, improving to 5-27 when scoring three or fewer runs.
"You'll take a split in a series, but you don't pick up ground when you take splits," manager Ned Yost told the team's official website after taking three of four in the two-city interleague set.
Guthrie and the Royals (29-31) will avoid Masahiro Tanaka, who played the role of stopper Thursday in a 5-2 win over Oakland and got his ninth victory. New York (30-29) snapped a four-game losing streak and avoided a three-game sweep before a 10-game road swing which also stops in Seattle and Oakland.
"I think it's really an important win before we go out on the road," manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees' official website. "We've played pretty well on the road and hopefully that can continue because we've got a long road trip."
New York has lost only two of its 10 road series this season.
Rookie Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.37) will bear the responsibility of sustaining the momentum as he again looks for his first win. That almost happened against Minnesota on Sunday, when he exited with a 2-1 lead after five innings, but the bullpen imploded in a six-run ninth of a 7-2 defeat.
Whitley, who has yet to throw more than 91 pitches, can empathize with Guthrie - all five runs he's received have come in the last two of his four outings.
Carlos Beltran went 0 for 3 in his first game since May 15 after being on the disabled list with a bone spur in his right elbow and was the Yankees designated hitter. He tormented the Royals - with whom he broke into the majors in 1998 - over the last two years with St. Louis, batting .356 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 10 games.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has hit Guthrie hard, going 20 for 46 (.435) with seven extra-base hits.