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NYY@KC: Hughes fans seven over 6 2/3 strong innings

If the Yankees and Royals want to win more games this season, they'll have to limit the damage opponents are doing early in games.

New York's pitching staff has surrendered 88 runs in the first three innings this season -- an ERA of 6.29. Similarly, the Royals have an ERA of 5.05 over the first three frames.

Both starters set to take the hill in the Bronx on Tuesday night have fallen victim to early-inning struggles. Yankees righty Phil Hughes has allowed 15 runs under such circumstances this season, and Royals righty Luke Hochevar has allowed 22 runs.

Big innings have been the largest thorn in the side of Hochevar, who's 3-4 with a 7.02 ERA this year. His numbers in the first inning are even more unsightly; his first-inning ERA is 13.50. In the third, it's 11.05. The middle innings haven't been a problem for Hochevar, but if he gets to the seventh, look out. His ERA in that frame is 27.00.

Hochevar's worst statistical outing of the season came against these Yankees on May 6 at Kauffman Stadium. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs on seven hits, including a pair of home runs.

Hughes opposed Hochevar in that game, picking up the win and allowing only three runs. Hughes has fared much better in May than he did in April, when he went 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA. In May, he has gone 2-2 with a 3.55 ERA.

Neither team is living up to its preseason expectations; each sits in fourth place in its respective division. The Royals went 1-4 on their recent five-game homestand before winning Monday night's series opener at Yankee Stadium. New York has dropped six of its last seven games and scored just 15 runs over that span. In their last nine games, the Yankees have gone 6-for-72 with runners in scoring position.

"All teams do go through these things, and I think sometimes you can look at short periods of time and start to look for reasons why it's happening," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes you can fool yourself. I really believe that these guys are going to hit.

"We've had some other guys who have been up and down, and there's been some inconsistencies ... but I think we're a much better offense than we've showed. We need to turn it around."

Royals: Trouble with RISP
• The Royals' poor showing in their recent homestand can be partially attributed to a .139 team batting average with runners in scoring position.

Conversely, the four-game winning streak that preceded the homestand was keyed by a .368 average with runners in scoring position.

• The injury bug has bit the Royals hard this season, but some injured players are working their way back. Catcher Salvador Perez, recovering from left knee surgery, recently caught injured left-hander Jonathan Sanchez during batting practice in Arizona. Both were reported as doing well.

Yankees: Teixeira moves down
• Dealing with severely inflamed bronchial airways, first baseman Mark Teixeira was back in the Yankees' starting lineup on Monday, playing in his first game since Thursday. But manager Joe Girardi batted Teixeira seventh, the lowest the switch-hitting slugger has hit since his rookie season. Teixeira has spent most of this season in the five-hole, but his average is down to .227 and he's hit just two home runs this month.

"It's been somewhat of a struggle -- not just for him, though, for a lot of our guys this year," Girardi said of Teixeira before Monday's game. "He hasn't played in a few days, and he hasn't really had a lot of at-bats, so I just thought I'd move him down. I said, 'My goal is to get you back to where you belong,' just to maybe get him going a little bit."

Teixeira went 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning double on Monday.

• Shortstop Derek Jeter is four hits away from tying Paul Waner for 15th on baseball's all-time list. Waner is the only former Yankee in Major League history with more career hits than Jeter. Waner appeared in only 10 games for the Bronx Bombers, going 1-for-7 across 10 plate appearances in 1944 and '45.

Worth noting
Hochevar has had little success against a pair of Yankees. Second baseman Robinson Cano is 5-for-10 with two homers and eight RBIs against Hochevar, while center fielder Curtis Granderson is 4-for-9 against the righty in his career. Comments