Preview: Royals send Shields to the mound looking to avoid sweep

Despite a disappointing season, the Chicago White Sox are in the midst of their longest winning stretch of the year.

The Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, must find a way to get back on track to remain a serious playoff contender.

Looking for a sixth consecutive victory, the White Sox try to end James Shields’ recent run of success and complete their first road sweep of the Royals in four seasons Thursday night.

Chicago (51-74) is well out of postseason contention, but it’s won 11 of 16 since a season-high 10-game slide. It’s been almost a year – Aug. 20-26 – since the White Sox won six straight overall.

They haven’t swept a series at Kansas City since May 29-31, 2009.

The Royals (64-61), meanwhile, have totaled 18 runs while losing four straight and seven of nine. They are 6 1/2 back of the final AL wild-card spot and 9 1/2 behind Detroit in the Central.

“We have just not played well,” said slugger Billy Butler, one of the few Royals to hit with a .379 average his last 15 games. “We’re in a tough stretch and we’re just not hitting.”

After being held to two runs in the first two games of the set, Kansas City hopes to provide Shields (8-8, 3.19 ERA) some support.

Though the right-hander ranks near the bottom of the majors receiving an average 3.61 runs of support, he’s 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his last five starts. He allowed three hits and overcame four walks in seven innings of a 3-0 victory at Detroit on Friday.

“I’ve been pitching well all season,” said Shields, who has recorded quality starts 20 of the 26 times he’s taken the mound. “I’ve got a lot of quality starts. That’s what I care about, not wins and losses.”

Shields’ current run of success began July 26, when he allowed eight hits over seven scoreless innings of a 5-1 victory at Chicago. He’s yielded five runs in 26 innings while going 1-1 in four starts against the White Sox in 2013.

Chicago starter Jose Quintana (7-4, 3.66) gave up two runs in seven innings of that loss to Shields last month. Though the left-hander is 0-2 in his last five starts versus Kansas City, he’s posted a 3.16 ERA during those outings.

He helped the White Sox snap their season-high 10-game road slide Friday while yielding two runs and striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings of a 5-2 victory at Minnesota.

“(I) tried to come in and attack earlier, throw strikes to every single one of the batters, and thankfully everything worked out,” said Quintana, who gave up five runs in five innings against the Twins in his previous start.

Batting .462 (6 for 13) against Shields, Chicago’s Dayan Viciedo clubbed his second career grand slam and had three hits in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory.

Viciedo is hitting .184 in August, but .350 (7 for 20) with two homers and seven RBIs in five games at Kauffman Stadium this season.

Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas is 7 for 16 with two homers against Quintana, and had an RBI on Wednesday. However, he’s 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in his last three versus Chicago.