(AP) — The New York Yankees’ ace led them to a victory in their series opener at Kansas City, and they’re hopeful a temporary replacement in their rotation can produce the same result Friday night against the lowly Royals.

CC Sabathia tied for the AL lead with his 15th victory in a 4-3 win Thursday, extending the Yankees’ edge in the AL East to two games over the idle Rays.

Three more games at Kauffman Stadium this weekend only figure to help New York (71-43), which took three of four from the Royals at home from July 22-25. The Yankees are 60-20 against Kansas City since the start of 2000; the clubs have the best and worst overall records in the majors in that stretch.

Even a recent void in their rotation hasn’t slowed down the reigning World Series champions, who’ve won two of Dustin Moseley’s three starts since he began filling in for the injured Andy Pettitte.

Moseley (2-1, 3.86 ERA) returns to the mound after beating Boston on Sunday, when he worked 6 1-3 innings in a 7-2 victory and drew praise from the Yankees’ captain.

“He throws a lot of strikes, works quick. He’s going to make you hit his pitch and he’s not going to walk too many guys,” shortstop Derek Jeter said. “He challenges guys. He knows how to pitch.”

The right-hander baffled the Royals in relief on July 24, replacing the ineffective Sergio Mitre and allowing one hit in 4 2-3 shutout innings to finish New York’s 7-4 defeat.

Kansas City starter Kyle Davies (5-7, 5.21) picked up the win in that game despite allowing three home runs – two by Mark Teixeira – in 5 1-3 innings.

That remains the only victory for Davies in his last 12 starts, dating to the end of May. The right-hander has gone even longer since his last home win, which came against Seattle on April 26.

The Royals (47-68) have again lost five straight, their third skid of at least that length since July 9. Their 8-22 record in that stretch is the worst in the majors.

A stagnant offense has been the primary problem lately. Kansas City has scored more than three runs once in its last 10 games, batting .218 as a team over that span.

The Yankees, meanwhile, lead the majors in runs. They got a boost Thursday from newcomer Austin Kearns, who hit his first home run since New York acquired him from Cleveland in a July 30 trade.

Curtis Granderson went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI, getting both hits against Royals left-hander Bruce Chen. Granderson was in a 3 for 29 slump overall and was batting .206 against lefties this season before the game.

“They’re a good ball club, they’re hot, and they’re playing good,” Chen said of the Yankees.

New York could be even tougher Friday with star closer Mariano Rivera available. Rivera had pitched on four of the previous five days before Thursday, when David Robertson got the final out for his first save of the year, stranding the tying run on third base.

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