The New York Yankees' struggle to find production from the middle of their lineup has resulted in a lengthy scoring rut.
They'll again search for a fix Monday night in Kansas City as they try to salvage a split in the series finale with the Royals.
After Sunday's 2-1 loss, the Yankees (31-31) have gone 10 games without scoring more than four runs.
Mix in some inconsistent pitching featuring a 7.18 bullpen ERA in that time, and it's no wonder why they've dropped seven of 10 and are in danger of dipping below .500 for the first time since being 5-6 on April 11.
"Somehow we've got to find a way to get it done," manager Joe Girardi said.
The only real production they're getting from the middle of the order has come from Jacoby Ellsbury, who is batting .385 during a 13-game hitting streak.
Carlos Beltran hit behind him in the cleanup spot Sunday and is 1 for 14 since returning from the disabled list.
Mark Teixeira, meanwhile, was held out of the starting lineup after his ailing right wrist felt sore from the previous night. Girardi expects Teixeira back in the lineup Monday, though after an unsuccessful pinch-hit appearance, the first baseman is batting .176 in his last 16 games.
Derek Jeter went 0 for 4 and is 3 for 26 in his last six games.
"When guys are scuffling it seems like they are scuffling in bunches. When you get hot it seems like a lot of guys are hot," Jeter said. "These are the times you've got to keep swinging."
Kansas City (31-32), meanwhile, can climb back to .500 for the first time since being 24-24 on May 24 as it turns to Jason Vargas.
Vargas (5-2, 3.28 ERA) threw a season-high 117 pitches and matched his longest outing of the year Wednesday against St. Louis, allowing two runs in eight innings in the Royals' 5-2, 11-inning loss.
He's 1-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his last three starts.
The left-hander has never beaten New York, going 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in seven starts and one relief effort. Alfonso Soriano is 6 for 13 with a home run and three doubles in their matchup.
The Yankees counter with Vidal Nuno, who is winless in his last five starts after surrendering two runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 7-4 loss to Oakland. Nuno (1-2, 5.33) didn't get stuck with the decision, but he was more concerned with a regression in efficiency after throwing 92 pitches.
"I had a lot of long ABs that drove my pitch count up," Nuno said. "My ball was kind of everywhere."
The left-hander will be making his 10th start since joining the rotation and had made it though at least six innings in his previous three. He's 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA as a starter, going 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three away from Yankee Stadium.
The second-year pitcher has never faced Kansas City.
Royals second baseman Omar Infante had been 0 for 19 prior to going 1 for 3 on Sunday. He's one of five Royals hitters - along with Nori Aoki, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez - manager Ned Yost expects to pick it up in the summer months.
"I have faith in them as hitters," Yost told the team's official website. "They have track records. You know these guys are going to hit. They've done it before. They're just all of a sudden not going to stop hitting as a group."
Shortstop Alcides Escobar is batting .407 during an eight-game hitting streak.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved