Since the Royals-Tigers series three weeks ago when the Royals took over first place, the Tigers have won 15 out 20 (the "Dayton Moore Special"), the second best record in baseball over that stretch. The Royals have gone a mere 8-12 over the same stretch, falling to 6.5 games back of the Tigers. Remember all those fun comments and articles about how the Tigers were a "flawed" team that might not even with the Central? Yea, those were cute.
The Royals are still not out of things though, as the Wild Card race is still very much up for grabs. The Angels have pretty much run away with the first Wild Card spot, but the second one is still wide open between the Mariners, Blue Jays, Royals, Indians, and Yankees all within 3.5 games of each other. All of those teams have flaws, so there's no reason to think the Royals can't stick around for at least a few more weeks.
But they have to start winning games again. Big Game James needs to be the stopper here and get the team back in the win column. James seemed to right the ship in Tampa Bay with a huge ten-strikeout performance in a 6-0 win on Monday, after a stretch of lousy performances. He'll have to keep that up tonight against the Tigers, a team he has historically struggled against with a lifetime ERA of 4.49 against in sixteen career starts, although he holds a winning 6-4 record against them. Shields will face Rick Porcello, who has had one of the best seasons of his career. Porcello has added a curveball to his repertoire this year, and with an improved infield defense behind him, the ground-ball specialist has a career best 3.53 ERA. His changeup has also improved, which may be the reason he has actually been more effective against left-handed hitters this year than right-handed hitters.
#Royals lineup vs. Porcello: Aoki LF Cain RF Hosmer 1B Perez C Infante 2B Butler DH Moustakas 3B Escobar SS Dyson CF Shields P— David Lesky (@DBLesky) July 12, 2014