Preview: Royals send Shields to mound in finale vs. Rangers to protect KC playoff dreams
James Shields has experience against the Texas Rangers in the regular season and postseason.
The Kansas City Royals are probably hoping to see the regular-season version of Shields in what figures to be a must-win game for their playoff hopes.
These clubs are currently out of the postseason picture, but the visiting Rangers can just about eliminate one of their pursuers while enhancing their own chances with a victory over Shields on Sunday.
Texas (84-70) is one-half game behind Cleveland for the AL's second wild card, with Kansas City 3 1/2 back. The Rangers trail Tampa Bay by one game for the first wild card.
The starters have combined to allow six runs to this point in this three-game series. The Royals won 2-1 on Friday and the Rangers posted a 3-1 victory Saturday.
"I go day to day," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The only thing I think about is what is it going to take to win tomorrow."
Kansas City (81-73) will hand the ball to Shields (12-9, 3.33 ERA), who seeks his 100th career win and is a workhorse once dubbed "Big Game James" who leads the AL with 213 2/3 innings.
Shields is 5-1 with a 1.36 ERA and two complete games in his last seven regular-season outings against the Rangers and 7-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 such starts overall. That's in contrast to his 0-2 mark and 10.61 ERA in two playoff starts against Texas with Tampa Bay.
Shields, however, has done his part to boost the Royals' playoff hopes with consecutive wins over the Indians in which he allowed three runs over 14 innings with 17 total strikeouts.
"He knows what's at stake and he's getting after it," Yost said. "He's into it."
Elvis Andrus is 11 for 26 in the regular season against Shields, who has been vulnerable at home this year with a 3-6 mark and a 4.73 ERA.
Texas slugger Adrian Beltre is 3 for 8 in this series. Beltre's .374 career batting average at Kauffman Stadium is the highest for an opposing batter with at least 150 plate appearances.
Alex Gordon is hitless in nine at-bats in this series, Salvador Perez is 1 for 8 and Billy Butler 1 for 7 for Kansas City, which will try to avoid losing a home series for the first time since dropping two of three to Washington on Aug. 23-25.
The Rangers will look to improve to 4-0 when Alexi Ogando (7-4, 3.15) starts against the Royals. All of those games were in 2011 with Ogando going 1-0 with a 3.79 ERA.
The right-hander was pressed into duty Tuesday and delivered when he allowed one run in five innings in a 7-1 victory at Tampa Bay. It was his first start since Aug. 13 after he missed three weeks due to shoulder inflammation.
"Hopefully we'll see the same thing we saw in Tampa Bay, pound the strike zone and let it all hang out," manager Ron Washington told the Rangers' official website. "Just attack like he did in Tampa. We'd like to see it again."
Butler and Gordon have each gone 1 for 10 off Ogando.
This is the Royals' home finale before they embark on a seven-game trip to face lowly Seattle and the Chicago White Sox.