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Starters look to get on track as Yankees visit K.C.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two struggling veterans will be on the mound Tuesday night for the series opener between the New York Yankees and Kanas City Royals.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (2-2, 5.77 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Right-hander Jason Hammel (1-4, 5.97 ERA) will get the nod for the Royals.

Sabathia began the season 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his first three starts. The 36-year-old is 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA since then, giving up 22 earned runs on 30 hits, including five home runs, over 20 2/3 innings.

The once-dominant Sabathia has not recorded double-digit wins since 2013, when he was 14-13. He had a losing record in each of the past three seasons.

"His cutter hasn't been as sharp, and that's a big pitch for him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Getting it inside to right-handers, speeding them up and setting up his backdoor breaking ball and his changeup, it just hasn't been effective."

Girardi said he will be patient with Sabathia.

"I've seen what he's done. I saw what he did last year and his first three starts this year. He'll find it," Girardi said.

In a loss last Tuesday at Cincinnati, Sabathia gave up five runs and six hits, all singles, in the second inning.

"That's baseball, it's up to me to make a pitch in that inning," Sabathia said. "My cutter got better as the game went on. In the second inning for whatever reason, it was just sneaking back over the plate. I felt good there with it later in the game. My changeup kept me in it. That's encouraging."

In his career against the Royals, Sabathia is 19-11 with a 3.20 ERA in 37 starts.

Hammel, a 15-game winner last year with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, begins games in fine fashion before struggling.

He has a 1.93 ERA in the first two innings of his seven starts, with opponents hitting .235 off him in the first two frames. However from the third inning on, Hammel has an 8.71 ERA, surrendering 20 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings while opponents bat .363 against him.

Hammel has worked exclusively from the stretch in his past two starts, something he will continue to do.

"It just cuts down on all the moving parts," Hammel said. "I'm still getting used to it, but I think it will help."

Hammel sought permission from pitching coach Dave Eiland before eschewing the windup delivery entirely in games.

"He said, 'I don't care if you stand on your head,'" Hammel said.

Hammel is 1-2 with a 5.05 ERA in four home starts. In his previous start, Hammel yielded 13 hits, equaling his career high, over seven innings in a loss at Tampa Bay.

In 19 career games (13 starts) vs. the Yankees, Hammel is 4-4 with a 4.78 ERA.

While the Yankees (22-13) are in first place in the American League East, the Royals (16-21) are last in the AL Central. Kansas City, however, swept a weekend home series from the Baltimore Orioles to stretch its winning streak to a season-high-tying four games.

"We struggled a little bit the first month, but the good thing about us is we never give up," said Royals backup catcher Drew Butera, who went 3-for-4 with a home run Sunday to raise his average to .310. "We knew that we're a good team and there's a lot of baseball left. We kept working hard, grinding it out, and it's starting to show."

The Yankees enter the Royals series with four losses in their past five games.

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