Rapid Reaction: Yankees 8, Royals 4

NEW YORK -- The Captain is back, and the Yankees are suddenly hitting, helping them overcome another shaky outing by Andy Pettitte.

What it means: The Yanks won their first game of the season with Derek Jeter in the lineup and ended up splitting a four-game series with the Royals in the Bronx. They are now 50-42 -- tied for third place in the American League East with the Orioles, 5½ games behind the first-place Red Sox.

Early trouble: Pettitte was roughed up in the first inning in his previous two starts, and it happened again Thursday. The Royals led 3-0 before the Yanks even came to bat.

Bounce back: Jeter, batting second as the Yankees' designated hitter, received a standing ovation when he strode to the plate in the bottom of the first. He swung at the first pitch he saw from Ervin Santana and hit a slow bouncer down the third-base line. Miguel Tejada couldn't handle it, but Jeter probably would have beaten it out anyway. It was career hit No. 3,305.

Jeter looked good on the bases, going from first to third on a single by Robinson Cano. He scored on a Vernon Wells sac fly, making it 3-1 after the first.

There's more: Pettitte gave up another run in the second. Johnny Giavotella reached on a bunt single, advanced to second on Pettitte's errant throw and scored on an Alcides Escobar single.

The Yankees answered with two runs in the bottom of the second. Eduardo Nunez beat out an infield single, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Austin Romine. Romine scored on an Ichiro Suzuki single, but Jeter ended the frame by grounding out to third.

The breakthrough: Things remained quiet from there until the bottom of the fifth, when the Yankees exploded for four runs. It all started with a one-out walk to Suzuki. He stole second base, then Jeter grounded out to second, advancing Suzuki to third. The Royals walked Cano intentionally and Wells unintentionally, loading the bases with two outs. All three walks turned into runs, thanks to three singles in a row by Lyle Overbay, Zoilo Almonte and Nunez. The Yanks led 7-4 after five.

They tacked on one more run in the sixth, after Luis Cruz and Romine led off with back-to-back singles. Suzuki bunted the runners over, and Jeter drove Cruz home with a sharp grounder to short.

Finishing lines: Pettitte lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits. He improved to 7-6 on the season, but his ERA rose to 4.39. He has given up at least four runs in six consecutive starts.

Jeter went 1-for-4, with a run scored and an RBI. He didn't hit a ball out of the infield, but his grounder in the fifth almost sneaked through and his grounder in the sixth was hit hard. With the Yankees leading by four, manager Joe Girardi elected to pinch hit for Jeter in the bottom of the eighth, replacing him with Brett Gardner.

The Yankees had 11 hits on the day -- two apiece by Almonte, Nunez and Romine. They matched their season high for runs in a game at Yankee Stadium, set just the day before.

Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Boone Logan combined for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Robertson struck out the side in the eighth.

What's next: The Yankees' final series before the All-Star break, against the Twins at Yankee Stadium. Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 2.77 ERA) will start the opener, opposed by lefty Scott Diamond (5-8, 5.52), with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. Friday.