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04/11/08 1:50 AM ET

Pettitte remains a Royals nemesis

Left-hander stays solid vs. KC as New York salvages finale

KANSAS CITY -- Dust off that old headline: "Andy Pettitte beats Royals." There should be plenty lying around.

Pettitte mastered the Royals again on Thursday night, pitching the New York Yankees to a 6-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium. He worked 6 2/3 innings and gave up five hits.

That gave Pettitte a 7-0 record in his last nine starts against the Royals. In his career, the lean left-hander is 12-3 against them with a 3.06 ERA, his best against any American League club.

The Yankees salvaged the third game of the series. The Royals, though, remained first in the AL Central with a 6-3 record.

Jose Guillen's double scored Mark Teahen in the Royals' first inning, but beyond that, Pettitte was impenetrable. Royals manager Trey Hillman handled Pettitte years ago when both were in the Yankees' Minor League system.

"He's good, he makes adjustments," Hillman said. "He was very, very upset with himself when he gave up the two-out single to Teahen. He didn't make many mistakes after that."

Melky Cabrera's 400-foot homer off left-hander John Bale got the Yankees a 1-1 tie in the third. That was their first run in 19 innings against Royals pitching, going back to the second inning of the series opener.

The Yankees pushed over another run in the fourth that began with Jorge Posada's hard liner glancing off Joey Gathright's glove in center field for a single.

"I really didn't think it was going to stay up until I got up to it," Gathright said. "And it just handcuffed me."

Posada went to third on Hideki Matsui's single and scored on a double play. The Yankees added two more runs off Bale in the fifth inning when a double play was aborted, as second baseman Mark Grudzielanek dropped the ball before making a pivot.

So the Royals' defense, though no errors were charged, let Bale down a bit.

"They didn't hit the ball hard off me, except that laser to center that Posada hit," Bale said. "And the changeup that got out was down, but he [Cabrera] went down and got it."

Hideo Nomo, in his first appearance for the Royals, relieved Bale in the seventh. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs on Alberto Gonzalez's single and two walks.

Nomo was making his return to the Majors -- he last pitched in 2005 for Tampa Bay -- and, sure enough, there was immediate drama. Batting with the bases full was his Japanese countryman, Matsui. As the crowd of 16,143 cheered the moment, Nomo won the face-off, getting Matsui to fly out to left.

After a scoreless eighth, Alex Rodriguez and Posada gave Nomo his 2008 rite of initiation, pounding back-to-back home runs. At least he ended the inning with a strikeout of Matsui.

"The ball A-Rod hit out was a split that didn't split," Hillman said. "That happens. Most of his splits did split."

Nomo hung a fastball to Posada.

Catcher John Buck noted that Nomo did well in his first two innings and may have been overextended by pitching a third inning.

"I thought he was doing real well," Buck said. "We may have extended him a little longer. He hasn't made that many pitches -- it's been a while."

Nomo's spring was interrupted by a groin injury, and he had not pitched in a game since March 25.

"I'm glad to be back," Nomo said.

Pettitte was back being a pain for the Royals. He was relieved by Joba Chamberlain for 1 1/3 innings, and Mariano Rivera notched his 447th career save with a scoreless ninth.

Once again, Pettitte had stymied the Royals.

"He threw the ball good. He kept us off-balance and made good pitches when he had to," Tony Pena Jr. said. "We'll get him sometime, though."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.