NEW YORK YANKEES (67-61)
at KANSAS CITY ROYALS (72-57)
First pitch: Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Kansas City -135, New York +125, Total: 7.5
The New York Yankees head to Kansas City for just one game on Monday as they make up an earlier rainout they had against the Royals.
The Yankees have forced their way back into the playoff race with victories in six of their past eight games, which includes a current four-game winning streak. Most recently they swept the White Sox in a three-game series in the Bronx in which they scored 16 runs. C Brian McCann (.235 BA) provided the fireworks in Sunday’s 7-4 win, as he hit a three-run bomb in the bottom of the 10th after closer David Robertson blew his third save of the year in the ninth. OF Martin Prado (.270 BA) has been a nice addition to this New York club and is a solid 13-for-32 (.406) with five doubles, two homers, 9 RBI and seven runs over his past eight games. Kansas City has been one of the great stories in the league this season as it is currently leading the AL Central division by two games over the star-studded Detroit Tigers. After losing the first four contests following the All-Star break, the Royals went on an absolute tear and are 21-6 (.778) in this timeframe. They were 6-3 in their recent nine-game road trip, but were unable to complete a sweep in Texas on Sunday as they were handed a 3-1 defeat. In their six wins on the road, they averaged 6.8 runs per game while OF Alex Gordon (.281 BA) hit three home runs and 1B Billy Butler (.277 BA) hit two on the trip. Monday's game will feature an intriguing pitching matchup with RHP Michael Pineda (2-2, 2.05 ERA) squaring off against the Royals ace, RHP James Shields (12-6, 3.28 ERA). The Yanks have actually performed better when on the road this year with a 34-30 record (.531), while Kansas City is 33-28 (.541) at Kauffman Stadium. These two clubs have had the pleasure of meeting up 17 times over the past three seasons with New York going 10-7 overall and 6-4 on the road, as the Royals have already won two of the first three games in this rain-shortened series. Some trends to keep an eye on include that the Yankees are 20-10 (.667) this year in road games versus poor power teams (0.9 HR or less per game) while Kansas City is 46-20 (.697) this season when the money line is -100 to -150. On the injury front, both OF Jacoby Ellsbury (rest) and OF Brett Gardner (ankle) sat out on Sunday, but both are expected back in the lineup. The Royals are without 1B Eric Hosmer (hand) who is on the 15-day DL.
Michael Pineda has pitched just 30.2 innings this season due to both suspension and injuries, but if his performance so far is any indication of what is in store from him, there is a lot to look forward to. He has walked only four batters (1.17 BB.9) and allowed one homer (0.29 HR/9) in that time while benefiting from batters hitting a meager .244 BABIP and leaving 78.1% of batters on base. Pineda has needed to harness his control due to his fastball losing nearly three MPH since his dominant rookie season with the Mariners back in 2011. In his two August starts since returning from the DL, Pineda has earned two no-decisions while giving up three runs on six hits over 11 total innings and striking out seven (1 walk). He faced the Royals twice when he was a member of Seattle, going 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA (0.93 WHIP) and had a 13:5 K/BB ratio in that time (14 IP). No player on Kansas City has more than seven at-bats against the righty with the only homer coming off the bat of currently injured 1B Eric Hosmer (1-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI). Two of the Royals core offensive players, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, have combined to go a woeful 2-for-13 with a double and three strikeouts against Pineda. The Yankees’ bullpen is 20-23 (.465) with a 3.89 ERA and 1.26 WHIP this year while successfully saving 42-of-59 (71%) contests. David Robertson (3.06 ERA, 34 saves) blew his third save of the year on Sunday and has struck out 13.7 batters per nine innings this season while allowing five homers in his 50 innings on the mound (0.90 HR/9).
James Shields has been one of the most consistent starters in the league over the past four seasons with an ERA that has stayed below 3.55, while he is on his way to an eighth straight season with at least 31 starts and 200 innings pitched. This year he has combated a strikeout rate that has declined from 8.8 K/9 in 2012 to 7.2 K/9 in 2014 with his most impressive control (1.8 BB/9) since the 2008 campaign. He has given up three or fewer earned runs in each of his past nine starts, while tossing at least six innings in eight of those outings and has allowed more than one walk just once in that time. As a former member of the Rays, Shields has had plenty of experience against the Yankees in his career and has gone 9-15 (11-18 team record) with a 4.20 ERA (1.31 WHIP) while looking amazing in his past two starts against them (2-0, 0.69 ERA). SS Derek Jeter has had plenty of at-bats against Shields (88) and has a .284 average with three doubles, a home run, 6 RBI and 13 strikeouts. Meanwhile, OF Jacoby Ellsbury has three doubles, two home runs and 4 RBI in the matchup, but is a mere 13-for-55 (.236) overall. The relievers for the Royals have combined to go 22-12 (.647) with a 3.40 ERA and 1.28 WHIP while going 42-for-52 (81%) in save opportunities. Greg Holland (1.79 ERA, 40 saves) has established himself as one of the elite closers in the game while saving 95% of his games (40-for-42) and striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings in 2014.