Preview: Royals send Shields to the bump in Minnesota
While they face a considerable deficit in the playoff race, the Kansas City Royals are on pace to finish with a winning record for the first time in 10 years.
They'll try to move closer to accomplishing that feat during a favorable portion of the schedule.
The Royals begin a stretch of 10 straight games against sub-.500 clubs Tuesday night with a Minnesota Twins team it regularly frustrates.
Kansas City (66-64), which hasn't won more than 75 games since finishing 83-79 in 2003, has won two in a row following a seven-game skid. The Royals blew out playoff contender Tampa Bay 11-1 in a makeup game Monday, and are batting .336 with 29 runs in the last four games after hitting .211 with 21 runs in their previous 10 contests.
"The offense to me looks like it is back on track," manager Ned Yost said.
Before a three-game series in Toronto and four games against Seattle, Kansas City will first try to improve on this season's 12-4 record against Minnesota.
The Twins (57-72) have lost six of seven to the Royals and seven of 10 overall. They once again struggled with runners in scoring position in a 3-1 loss to Cleveland on Sunday, going 3 for 19 and failing to take advantage of four Indians errors.
Minnesota is batting an AL-worst .228 in those situation this season and .167 in its last 10 games. The Twins likely won't have star catcher Joe Mauer for this series as he's recovering from a concussion-like symptoms.
Mauer went on the seven-day disabled list this past Tuesday.
"As much as anything, we just want him to lay low," assistant general manager Rob Antony told the team's website. "The doctors said the best thing for those things is rest, so that's what he's doing."
Kansas City extended its win streak at Target Field to four after sweeping a series there July 30-Aug. 1.
The Royals will face Kevin Correia (8-10, 4.52 ERA), who is 0-2 with a 7.08 ERA in his four matchups this season. The right-hander was tagged for six runs in two innings in a 13-0 drubbing Aug. 5.
Correia has a 2.57 ERA in three starts since. He was charged with four runs - two earned - over 6 2-3 innings in a 7-1 loss to Detroit on Wednesday.
James Shields (8-8, 3.22) is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his last three starts but gave up a season-high seven runs over six innings in a 7-0 loss to Minnesota on Aug. 6. Shields was 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his previous four matchups, including two this season.
Billy Butler looks to improve on his .407 average against the Twins this season, his best against any opponent. Butler, batting .390 with four homers in his last 20 overall games, has 14 RBIs in those 16 matchups with Minnesota.
Butler is 3 for 8 against Correia this season, and David Lough is 5 for 5 with three doubles. Mike Moustakas is 5 for 11.
Brian Dozer is 5 for 9 with a home run and two doubles against Shields this year while Justin Morneau has two homers and two doubles in his nine at-bats versus the right-hander.
While he's hitting just .214 this season, Josh Willingham is batting a team-best .370 (10 for 27) against Kansas City.