Runs have been tough to come by for the Kansas City Royals, and they’ve been almost nonexistent whenever they’ve had James Shields on the mound.
The Royals will attempt to turn things around at the plate and avoid a fifth straight loss Sunday against a Chicago White Sox team hoping to end a disappointing road trip on a positive note.
After Kansas City (34-38) failed to come through with the go-ahead run on third and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday, Alejandro De Aza drove in Jordan Danks with a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth to give Chicago (31-41) a 3-2 victory.
“It seems like we’re always on the losing end of one-run games, so fundamentally to get a sac fly to get the winning run, it’s a good feeling,” said Jeff Keppinger, who had three hits. “Hopefully we can build off it.”
The Royals haven’t been feeling good offensively. They’ve totaled nine runs while hitting .207 with runners in scoring position over their four-game losing streak.
Lorenzo Cain (1 for 15), Salvador Perez (2 for 15), Alex Gordon (0 for 11) and Billy Butler (1 for 10) have fallen on difficult times during the skid.
“We’re all scratching our heads,” manager Ned Yost said. “The consistency of our offense has been a little bit mind-boggling.”
Shields (2-6, 2.72 ERA) has certainly been haunted by the lack of scoring, getting none over his last two starts. His 2.80 run-support average is among the lowest in the major leagues, and he’s received 11 total runs of support over a nine-start winless stretch since beating Tampa Bay on April 30.
Despite struggling to score, the Royals have actually won each of Shields’ last four starts. The right-hander has allowed two runs or less in each, and has pitched at least six innings in 29 straight starts. He yielded one run in six innings in Kansas City’s 2-1 comeback win over Cleveland on Monday.
Although he’s 3-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 13 career starts against the White Sox, Shields has struck out 15 and allowed one run over 14 innings in two meetings this season. He’s 0-1, though, thanks to a Kansas City offense that has given him one run.
The AL Central-worst White Sox look to avoid their seventh loss on a 10-game swing by earning their first road sweep since Sept. 14-16 at Minnesota.
Dayan Viciedo is batting .310 during a seven-game hit streak and 4 for 8 all-time when facing Shields, while Alexei Ramirez has a .379 average and two homers in 29 career at-bats in this matchup.
Sluggers Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn haven’t been able to figure out Shields, going a combined 5 for 46 with 17 strikeouts lifetime against him.
Chicago hopes right-hander Dylan Axelrod (3-4, 4.39) can regroup after getting tagged for 11 runs and 18 hits – four homers – over 10-plus innings in his last two outings. He threw a season-high 114 pitches while allowing a career-worst 10 hits and five runs before leaving without a decision in a 7-5 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday.
Axelrod, though, pitched well in his only career start against the Royals on May 4, yielding two runs in a season-high 7 2/3 innings in a 2-0 road loss.
Eric Hosmer, who had three hits off Axelrod last month, and Mike Moustakas have been bright spots for the Royals, going a combined 13 for 29 during the losing streak.