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By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- Pitching has made a world of difference for the New York Yankees, who appear to be back on track after posting back-to-back shutouts.
Looking to make it three in a row, New York gives the ball to David Phelps in Friday night's series opener against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
New York (21-19) had surrendered 32 runs during a four-game losing streak - including two straight home defeats to the Mets - before taking both games at Citi Field. After Masahiro Tanaka recorded his first complete game in Wednesday's 4-0 win, four pitchers combined on a three-hitter in a 1-0 victory Thursday.
While the Yankees have won 18 straight when allowing three or fewer runs, they are 3-18 when yielding at least four. New York hasn't put together three consecutive shutouts since June 6-8, 1962.
The Yankees now turn to Phelps (0-0, 4.09 ERA), who is set to make his third start since replacing the injured Michael Pineda in the rotation. The right-hander yielded four runs and eight hits over five-plus innings in Sunday's 6-5 walk-off loss at Milwaukee.
"It's a frustrating game," Phelps told MLB's official website. "When I was getting ahead of guys, I wasn't putting them away, and when I wasn't getting ahead of guys, I was just giving up hits. I've got to do a better job than that."
Phelps could bounce back at Yankee Stadium, where he's gone 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts over the previous two years.
Home, however, hasn't been kind to New York, which has hit .181 with runners in scoring position during a 1-6 stretch in the Bronx.
The Yankees may have even more trouble scoring runs with Carlos Beltran on the shelf. Beltran, who hasn't played since Monday, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday and could need surgery if his elbow doesn't improve.
"I'm getting better but not to the point where I'm capable of swinging the bat 100 percent," said Beltran, batting .234 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 33 games. "Right now we just hope to give the injection or they give me some cortisone by mouth, pills by mouth, to try to make it better. Let's say in 15 days it doesn't get better, then we have to talk about it and make another decision."
The Pirates (17-23) head to New York after dropping two of three at Milwaukee. Pittsburgh appeared headed for victory Thursday before former Yankee Mark Melancon blew the save in a 4-3 walk-off loss.
Melancon, filling in for injured closer Jason Grilli, allowed two runs and failed to record an out.
"More often than not if a closer doesn't close, people want to hang him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He goes out there and competes, and nobody feels worse than he does in that clubhouse right now. He's been very efficient.
"That's what makes the game so challenging. You have to continually do it, and there's no safety net when you're in the position of closer."
Pittsburgh will try to bounce back behind Edinson Volquez (1-3, 4.36), who is 0-3 with a 6.85 ERA in his last four starts. The right-hander yielded three runs, four hits and a season-high four walks over 4 2-3 innings of Saturday's 4-3 win over St. Louis.
In his only appearance against the Yankees, Volquez allowed two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 road win with Cincinnati in 2008. He'll try to shut down Yangervis Solarte, who is batting .429 with three homers and 10 RBIs in a 10-game stretch.
The Yankees are 7-2 all-time against the Pirates in the regular season, including 6-0 at home.
Updated May 16, 2014