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The Yankees and upstart Royals play three in Kansas City. New York comes fresh off a series win in rainy Colorado. Kansas City comes off a series loss to the Orioles in Baltimore.  Here is a Yankees-Royals series preview.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore had a plan a couple years ago.  It was a plan to build through the farm, get pitching with some prospects and build an actual baseball team.  Well, here we are.  The Royals are good.  Are they really good?  Not yet, but even at 18-13 this club is showing early signs that the playoffs are possible, especially with the second Wild Card now in place.  The Yankees will see old Rays pitchers Wade Davis and James Shields in this series, two guys they know well from American League East ball.  Finally, Mariano Rivera returns to the scene where he tore his ACL shagging fly balls last year.    

Players to watch:  Robinson Cano and Alex Gordon.  Cano is hitting well over .300 and collected his 1,500th hit in Colorado.  He is the fifth Yankee to achieve the mark before the age of 31.  Cano, arguably, is the most irreplaceable player in baseball right now considering the Yankees have been trotting out a different lineup every day working around a plethora of injuries.  Gordon, meantime, leads the Royals in hits (43) and RBI (25) and can hit lefty or righty pitching.  His left field play is miles better than last year as well.

Prediction:  Yankees win two of three.  The Royals boast solid pitching, but Phil Hughes has given the Yanks four straight solid starts and seems to have found his control, Andy Pettitte is due for a rebound game and Hiroki Kuroda is the rock in the rotation.  The Yankee bullpen has been better lately as well and is deeper now that Preston Claiborne has been added.  Plus, New York’s offense can win with small ball or the long ball, which provides versatility against all types of pitching.

Pitching match-ups:  Friday: Phil Hughes (1-2, 3.60) vs. Wade Davis (2-2, 4.75).  Saturday: Andy Pettitte (3-2, 4.06) vs.James Shields (2-2, 2.52).  Sunday: Hiroki Kuroda (4-2, 2.30) vs. Ervin Santana (3-1, 2.36).

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio.  Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.