Game preview: Shields could use some run support

HOUSTON (AP) — The Kansas City Royals ended their longest losing streak of the season with a late rally.

Whether they can rally behind James Shields remains to be seen.

Despite his outstanding pitching this season, Shields will be trying to avoid losing his third consecutive start Wednesday night against the Houston Astros.

After dropping four straight one-run games, the Royals (21-21) scored all of their runs in the final three innings of a 7-3 victory Tuesday. The victory was just their fourth in 15 contests.

“Give the Royals a lot of credit. They battled their at-bats and put balls in play and had some really good at-bats late in the game,” manager Bo Porter told the Astros’ official website.

Kansas City has scored 15 runs in its last three contests, but has managed four runs in dropping Shields’ past three starts. The right-hander has posted a 1.50 ERA in that stretch – pitching eight innings each time – and a 2.00 ERA over his past six, going 1-2.

Shields gave up two runs and matched a season high with nine strikeouts in a 2-1 loss at Oakland on Friday.

“It’s a tough loss right there. A real tough loss,” he said. “It was just a case of me not doing my job out there, whatever the score was.”

Shields (2-4, 2.45 ERA) hasn’t lost three consecutive starts since a four-start stretch with Tampa Bay from June 29-July 16, 2011. His last start before that skid was his only appearance against the Astros, a three-hitter in a 5-1 win at Houston.

The Astros (13-33), who opened this series with a 6-5 victory Monday, continue their eight-game homestand with Jordan Lyles (1-1, 6.63) set to take the hill.

The right-hander has made four starts since being called up May 2. He rebounded nicely Friday from an ugly outing, going five-plus innings and allowing two runs – one earned – in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh. Lyles gave up eight runs and 11 hits in four innings of a 12-7 defeat to Texas on May 12.

“That first inning, I walked too many guys (two) and that’s not what you want to see, but I bounced back,” Lyles said after his latest outing.

He has faced the Royals once, throwing seven innings and giving up two runs in a 2-1 home loss June 20.

Alex Gordon, batting .514 during a nine-game hitting streak, is 1 for 3 with a triple off Lyles.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, 1 for 3 with a double against Lyles, snapped an 0-for-18 skid Tuesday with a tying RBI single in the eighth inning.

“One hit is not going to … completely turn anything around, but it’s a big hit in a big situation and it gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” he said.