Twins and Royals Send First-Timer Albers and Wizened Vet Shields to the Mound

A Canadian lamb to the slaughter or Cy Albers? - Dennis Grombkowski

Shields and the Royals face a lesser team on paper with the mission clear: gain/hold ground in the playoff picture.

With the two teams ahead of them in the division facing off against each other in Cleveland again tonight, the Royals turn to James Shields to hold off the lowly Twins and attempt to gain ground in both the Wild Card and AL Central standings. Since the Royals scored their series allotment of runs in the first game of the three-game homestand, James Shields will likely have to go to battle without any run support. As he is sitting at six wins one full start into August, one would imagine this is something to which he has grown accustomed.

Shields will also have to try to stave off the Twins while in the midst of a mid-season swoon. In June, Shields's K/9 dropped a more than a full strikeout per nine while his walk rate spiked by more than 0.60. July saw his K/9 drop by another strikeout-and-a-half per nine while seeing a slight rebound in BB/9. He's now had two straight months in which his OBP allowed has been over .340 and his SLG allowed over the past two months has been .390 and .400.

While one could normally take solace in the fact that Shields is pitching at home, his K-rates and BB-rates are actually worse at home--that latter point previously having been thought impossible--and he's pitched worse at Kauffman Stadium than on the road by nearly every measure of performance.

His counterpart will be first-time Major League starter Andrew Albers. Albers seems to be cut from the same pitch-to-contact cloth that the Twins organization seems loathe to abandon despite its apparent shortcomings. It's hard not to look at this match-up and not expect the worst from the Royals while having flashbacks of countless four- and five-pitch innings at the hands of the endless stream of pedestrian tossers that the Twins have thrown at them over the past dozen years or so.

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