Twins-Royals Preview

Phenomenal starting pitching is a major reason the Kansas City
Royals continue to surge, though their lineup proved it is capable
of exceptional contributions, too.

James Shields takes the mound as Kansas City’s offense seeks
another solid performance Tuesday night against the visiting
Minnesota Twins.

Kansas City (57-52), which hasn’t posted a winning record since
finishing 83-79 in 2003, is surprising many by remaining in
postseason contention into August. Winning 12 of its last 13 has
helped that cause, with the starting rotation posting a 1.58 ERA
during that stretch.

Jeremy Guthrie tossed a four-hitter Monday, but the Royals also
tied a season best for runs scored in a 13-0 victory over the
Twins. Eric Hosmer hit a three-run homer and finished with a
career-best five RBIs, and Mike Moustakas tied a career high with
four hits.

Kansas City has outscored opponents 67-25 during its tear.

”Quite frankly, (Monday) was probably the least stressful game
that we’ve played all year long,” manager Ned Yost said. ”It was
literally a stress-free game. It was a combination of good
pitching, solid defense and great hitting.”

Shields (6-7, 3.08 ERA) hasn’t given Yost much to complain about
lately either, having gone 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA over his last five
starts. He battled through five walks and allowed two runs in six
innings of Thursday’s 7-2 win over the Twins.

The right-hander allowed an RBI groundout to Joe Mauer before
giving up a solo homer to Justin Morneau, both in the third inning,
but the Royals completed a three-game sweep.

”We’re playing some really good baseball and we believe in
ourselves right now,” Shields said. ”Going into this last two
months, this is kind of the baseball we need to play.”

Shields is 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA over his last four starts versus
Minnesota, though Morneau (.371, three homers, six doubles) and
Mauer (.353) each have had success in this matchup.

Morneau was hitting .412 over his previous four games before
going 0 for 4 on Monday, and Mauer is just 3 for 18 over his last
five. The Twins (48-61) have been outscored 46-24 while dropping
five of eight.

It got so bad Monday that infielder Jamey Carroll made his first
appearance on the mound in his 12-year career.

”I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time talking about
this one,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Minnesota may be able to catch the Royals off guard Tuesday as
it sends Andrew Albers to the mound for his major league debut.

Albers went 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts for Triple-A
Rochester, and Gardenhire is looking forward to seeing what he can
do at the major league level.

“From just listening to (Rochester manager) Gene Glynn talk and
guys that know him from around here, he’s a competitor, a great guy
for the club, a great clubhouse presence,” Gardenhire told the
team’s official website. “He doesn’t have a lot of velocity, but he
really knows how to pitch. He can cut the ball in hard and locate
the baseball.”

The left-hander faced major leaguers while pitching for Team
Canada in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year.

“You realize that they’re human, too,” Albers said. “You’ve got
to come up and do what got you here, pound the zone and throw
strikes and be aggressive.”

The Royals rank eighth in the majors hitting .260 against
lefties.