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