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Wang tries to stay atop leaderboard

Wang tries to stay atop leaderboard

The streaking Yankees will turn to their ace on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, as Chien-Ming Wang aims to become the Majors' first 18-game winner when he faces the Royals.

Offensively, New York will try to supply the same force it exhibited in a blowout victory on Saturday night -- and has shown throughout the second half. The Yankees lead the Major Leagues in second-half runs and have scored 14 in the first two games of this series, including 11 on Saturday.

Those runs have helped New York, under .500 as recently as July 5, build a three-game lead in the American League Wild Card race.

"As bad as we played, you forget how long of a season it is when you are struggling the first two or three months of the season," said Andy Pettitte, Saturday's winning pitcher.

"It is very nice to know that we are playing well and we can put ourselves in a real good position if we keep playing well."

Wang has helped New York turn around its season. He has won four straight starts and is 16-3 with a 3.37 ERA in his last 22 starts. The right-hander has also pitched at least six innings in 17 of his last 18 starts and 22 of his last 24.

Another win will likely come courtesy of Alex Rodriguez, who started a seven-run rally on Saturday with a leadoff homer to left field, his second of the game and his Major League-leading 51st of the season.

A-Rod, who has hit eight homers in his past 10 games, has hit three in the first two games of the series, going deep off Gil Meche and Brian Bannister, Kansas City's two top starting pitchers.

Wang will try to continue a string of strong performances by the Yankees' starting pitchers. Rookie Ian Kennedy tossed five innings of two-run ball on Friday night, and Pettitte went 6 1/3 innings on Saturday.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (17-6, 3.68 ERA)
Wang turned in another strong performance last week, lasting into the eighth inning and allowing just one run against the Mariners. He left with one out in the eighth with stiffness in his back, but he gave no indications that he'd be anything less than 100 percent for Sunday's start.

KC: RHP Zack Greinke (6-5, 3.87 ERA)
Greinke delivered another impressive start on Monday night against the Rangers, tossing five shutout innings in his third start since rejoining the Royals rotation and earning his first win as a starter since April 10. Greinke has not allowed a earned run -- across 12 innings -- since rejoining the rotation, and he has posted an 11-1 strikeout-to-walk rate. Greinke is 3-3 with a 4.24 ERA at home and 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA on the road. The right-hander has a 14.73 ERA in three relief appearances against New York this season and has not faced the Yankees as a starter.

Player to watch
Wilson Betemit could see another start on Sunday. He went 2-for-2 with a homer, two runs scored a walk and three RBIs in his first three at-bats on Saturday, and shortstop Derek Jeter is expected to miss the series finale with stiffness in his right knee.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 2-3, 5.33) at Blue Jays (TBD), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 8-10, 5.51) at Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan, 10-8, 3.90), 7:07 p.m. ET

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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