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The quest for .500

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The Royals top starter takes the mound, seeking to even the Royals' record.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This should be interesting.

The Royals send their best starter to the mound in James Shields tonight to open a three game series in Cleveland. We all know about Shields and how he's been outstanding as the Royals best starter. We also know all about his abhorrent lack of run support.

That could change tonight.

The Indians will counter with noted headhunter Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco was suspended back in 2011 for throwing a pitch over Billy Butler's head immediately following a Melky Cabrera grand slam. Before he was able to serve his suspension, he had Tommy John surgery. Forward to 2013 and after rehabbing and serving his suspension he was back on a major league mound where he lasted until the fourth inning before he was ejected for hitting Kevin Youklis on the first pitch following a Robinson Cano home run. That earned him another suspension.

After both incidents Carrasco claimed the ball ran away from him.

Uh, no.

The common denominator in both these incidents were home runs immediately ahead of the "mistakes" delivered by Carrasco. Maybe the Royals can breathe easy then. Their team total of 37 home runs is dead last in the American League. (Minnesota is the next closes team to the Royals and they have hit 56 home runs.) In fact, the Royals home run total is worse than any team in baseball, save the Miami Marlins who have hit just 34.

Clearly, the Royals are not fans of Mr. Carrasco. Nor should they be. It happens once, it can be a mistake. It happens twice, it's a pattern.

Now let's talk about our favorite starter, Shields.

It will come as no surprise I'm not a fan of the Quality Start stat. We can debate the parameters of what makes a QS all we want, but know that Shields leads the AL with 12 starts that can be classified as quality. And by throwing 12 QS in 14 starts, his 86 percent QS rate is also the highest in the league.

A starting pitching metric I'm fond of is Game Score. Shields currently ranks seventh in the AL with an average Game Score of 61.1. For reference, the top 10:

Clay Buchholz - 66.4
Yu Darvish - 66.0
Chris Sale - 64.9
Max Scherzer - 64.4
Hisashi Iwakuma - 64.0
Felix Hernandez - 63.2
James Shields - 61.1
Anibal Sanchez - 60.4
Ervin Santana - 60.3
Justin Masterson - 58.7

Finally, some up to the minute bullpen facts:

-- Tim Collins has appeared in five of the last seven games and thrown a total of 78 pitches over that stretch.

-- Outside of Collins, no Royal reliever has thrown more than 50 pitches in the last week.

-- Bruce Chen hasn't been seen since June 4 when he pitched 3.2 IP scoreless against the Twins.

This is a key moment in our return to the .500 mark. Symbolic more than anything, but after their horrendous May, it's a huge surprise we are at this moment. With Shields on the mound for us, and Carrasco on the mound for them, I like our chances.