Chase Whitley matched his career-high of five innings in his last outing against the Twins, going five innings while giving up five hits, one run and striking out six batters.
Whitley will look to match or better that outing against the Royals in Friday night's series opener at Kauffman Stadium. The longer he goes into the game, the better off the Yankees will be, as their bullpen has struggled of late.
During their last homestand, the Yankees' bullpen blew three separate leads as the club finished the seven-game stretch at 2-5.
"We were just having a little slump, too," closer David Robertson said. "We had a lead a few times, couldn't hold it. It happens in baseball."
However, the Yankees grabbed a 2-1 win over the A's in the final game of the homestand to snap a four-game skid. Starter Masahiro Tanaka handed the bullpen a one-run lead, and the combination of Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Robertson closed out the game.
The Yankees' offense has also been struggling during the stretch, averaging only 2.3 runs per game. However, both Carlos Beltran (bone spur) and Mark Teixeira (right wrist) have returned from injuries and will look to give the offense a spark during a 10-game road stretch against the Royals, Mariners and A's.
"The A's gave us everything they had, they were fighting us tooth and nail out there," Robertson said following Thursday's win. "It seemed like every pitch they were fouling back and I feel very fortunate to take a win today."
Royals: Guthrie set to face Yanks
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie will take the mound for perhaps the last time against Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter on Friday.
Guthrie, who was a member of the Orioles' pitching staff for more than five years, has become familiar with Jeter. Only seven batters have faced him more frequently than the Yankees' 39-year-old shortstop.
In 50 plate appearances, Jeter is hitting .261 with two doubles against Guthrie.
"He's someone I've always enjoyed facing, I watched him as a kid growing up and I think he's had a tremendous career," Guthrie said. "Obviously, he's done everything right on and off the field for the most part, and someone kids look up to as a role model."
Against Jeter and the Yankees, Guthrie is looking for his first win since April 9. He has been sharp lately, allowing just two runs in seven innings against the Blue Jays, but the Royals could not muster any runs in a 4-0 loss.
Guthrie has a 1.80 ERA in his last three starts.
"I've just been trying to mix it up," Guthrie said. "I think we've done a pretty good job of keeping the pitches down. Mixing in and away better I think it's helped us get away with a few more mistakes that I've made so hopefully I can continue to do that."
Yankees: Beltran returns to lineup
Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup on Thursday, batting fifth as the designated hitter against the A's after a successful rehab stint in Tampa, Fla.
Beltran, who went 0-for-3 in his first game back - arrived in New York on Wednesday after three extended spring games, getting 14 at-bats and feeling no discomfort in his right elbow.
"Swinging-wise I feel good," said Beltran, who will primarily be the DH until he begins a throwing program. "I swung from both sides of the plate. I swung hard, the same swing I would take in a game. I feel something there, but it's not pain. It's just I would say a hard stretch there. But other than that, I feel fine."
Beltran had not played since May 12, when he took himself out of the lineup against the Mets because of sharp pain in his elbow. Doctors gave him two cortisone shots to treat a bone spur in order to forego surgery until the offseason.
• The Yankees have won three of Whitley's first four Major League starts, but Whitley has not picked up a decision through his first four games.
Royals relievers Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera will not be available for Friday's game, manager Ned Yost announced on Thursday.
Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.