Yankees look to continue momentum against Royals

The Kansas City Royals' offense is struggling, but that won't affect the strategy of New York Yankees starter Gerrit Cole during his start on Saturday night.

Cole (1-0, 4.00 ERA) will oppose fellow right-hander Carlos Hernandez (0-0, 6.43) as the Yankees and host Royals meet Saturday night in the second game of a three-game series.

The Yankees took the opener 12-2 on Friday night in a game that was called after eight innings because of rain. The contest was close through six, with the Yankees holding a 3-2 lead, but New York blew it open with a four-run seventh and a five-run eighth.

The Yankees hit four home runs to take the major-league lead with 29. New York earned its seventh win in a row while Kansas City lost for the sixth time in eight games.

Only two teams have hit fewer than the Royals' 11 homers, and only three teams have a worse OPS than Kansas City's .597 mark. Cole is shrugging off those numbers, though.

"I had no idea," Cole said about the Royals' problems before Friday's game. "It won't get past me tomorrow, but I'm not going to change my approach. I'm probably going to stick with the keys that give me the leverage to execute my pitches. It's still early, so a little bit more of my focus will be on myself.

"But coming in I'll be looking at the top six hitters in their lineup. They're all professional hitters."

Recognizing that Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield usually is among the American League hits leaders won't be far from Cole's mind, even with Merrifield struggling with a .133 average after going 1-for-4 on Friday.

"I hope Whit doesn't have one of those days against us where he all of a sudden raises his average up near .300," Cole said. "He's like (the Yankees' DJ) LeMahieu. If he's 0-for-3, when he's coming up for his fourth at-bat, the numbers say he's going to get a hit."

The Yankees are 3-1 in Cole's four starts, but he has pitched more than four innings only twice. In his latest outing, he threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out nine in a 10-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday.

Cole is 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA in five career starts against the Royals.

Hernandez has enough to worry about without focusing on the Yankees' lineup. He has allowed at least three runs and six hits without ever completing six innings in his three starts.

In his most recent outing, Hernandez gave up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. He allowed a two-run home run to Ty France, the second batter he faced, but then settled down.

"He got ambushed (by France)," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "But I thought he did a nice job pretty much all day, making pitches and knowing when to stretch the zone."

After retiring 15 of the next 18 hitters, Hernandez gave up three hits in a row with one out in the sixth inning, including an RBI double by J.P. Crawford, leading to his removal.

Hernandez, 25, has made two career appearances (one start) against the Yankees, producing no decisions and a 3.12 ERA.