The last time the Royals faced the Yankees just over a week ago at Kauffman, the two teams were both in first place for what might be a post-season preview. Since then the Yankees have slumped badly, including a disappointing sweet at home over the weekend to the Texas Rangers. New York is riding a six-game losing streak, dropping ten of their last eleven to fall to .500. They also received a blow over the weekend when they lost their best player so far this season, Jacoby Ellsbury, when he was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury.
The Yankees can still boast a potent offense with sluggers Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez off to good starts, and the Bronx Bombers are third in the league in home runs. Yankee Stadium has become a home run haven, however just 26 of their 53 home runs have come at home. The offense overall has just barely above-average, scoring 4.41 runs per game. They have been hampered by a low team on-base percentage of just .313, ninth in the league, and have been hurt by having black holes in the lineup at second base, shortstop, and even right-fielder Carlos Beltran has been a disappointment in the lineup.
The Yankees are a poor defensive team and their defense takes a further hit with Ellsbury out. New York has the fifth-worst Defensive Runs Saved in the league at -14. Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira are considered solid defenders, but Chris Young has been subpar and Carlos Beltran has become a defensive liability. Third baseman Chase Headley has a whopping -7 DRS already, the third-worst by any defender at any position in baseball.
Nathan Eovaldi was a late scratch from the last series between the Royals and Yankees. The 25-year old right-hander has had mixed results since being acquired by the Yankees over the winter from Miami. Adam Warren has seen a big drop in strikeouts this year, and features a hittable fastball that sits at 92-93 mph. Michael Pineda struck out 16 Orioles hitters on May 10, but could only strike out one Royals hitter his last time out in a loss, and has given up 12 runs over his last two starts.
Yankees closer Andrew Miller has finally given up a run this year, but still sports a dominant 0.93 ERA with a ridiculous 33 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings. Set-up man Dellin Betances has still not given up an earned run (howevrer he has two unearned runs allowed) in 24 innings of work. The rest of the bullpen has been quite hittable, with the remaining relievers combining for a 4.45 ERA.
The Yankees are a team reeling while the Royals are riding high. Yankee Stadium used to be a big, scary intimidating place where Royals pitchers would soil themselves, but those days are long gone. The Yankees are tough, but beatable, but with fly-ball pitchers on the mound for the Royals, keeping the ball in the ballpark will prove to the be the biggest challenge.