The Kansas City Royals ended their longest losing streak of the season with a late rally.
Whether they can rally behind James Shields remains to be seen.
Despite his outstanding pitching this season, Shields will be trying to avoid losing his third consecutive start Wednesday night against the Houston Astros .
After dropping four straight one-run games, the Royals (21-21) scored all of their runs in the final three innings of a 7-3 victory Tuesday. The victory was just their fourth in 15 contests.
"Give the Royals a lot of credit. They battled their at-bats and put balls in play and had some really good at-bats late in the game," manager Bo Porter told the Astros' official website.
Kansas City has scored 15 runs in its last three contests, but it's managed four runs in dropping Shields' past three starts. The right-hander has posted a 1.50 ERA in that stretch - pitching eight innings each time - and a 2.00 ERA over his past six, going 1-2.
Shields gave up two runs and matched a season high with nine strikeouts in a 2-1 loss at Oakland on Friday."It's a tough loss right there. A real tough loss," he said. "It was just a case of me not doing my job out there, whatever the score was."
Shields (2-4, 2.45 ERA) hasn't lost three consecutive starts since a four-start stretch with Tampa Bay from June 29-July 16, 2011.
His last start before that skid was his only appearance against the Astros, a three-hitter in a 5-1 win at Houston.
The Astros (13-33), who opened this series with a 6-5 victory Monday, continue their eight-game homestand with Jordan Lyles (1-1, 6.63) set to take the hill.
The right-hander has made four starts since being called up May 2. He rebounded nicely Friday from an ugly outing, going five-plus innings and allowing two runs - one earned - in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh.
Lyles gave up eight runs and 11 hits in four innings of a 12-7 defeat to Texas on May 12.
"That first inning, I walked too many guys (two) and that's not what you want to see, but I bounced back," Lyles said after his latest outing.
He's faced the Royals once, throwing seven innings and giving up two runs in a 2-1 home loss June 20.
Alex Gordon , batting .514 during a nine-game hitting streak, is 1 for 3 with a triple off Lyles.
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas , 1 for 3 with a double against Lyles, snapped an 0-for-18 skid Tuesday with a tying RBI single in the eighth inning."One hit is not going to ... completely turn anything around, but it's a big hit in a big situation and it gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow," he said.
|Kansas City Royals|
|May 16, 2013||Jarrod Dyson||15-Day DL||Right ankle sprain|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|May 21, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|May 13, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back spasms|
|April 24, 2013||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|April 20, 2013||J.D. Martinez||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|April 20, 2013||J.D. Martinez||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|April 05, 2013||Travis Blackley||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros got another good outing from their starting pitcher, and their bullpen was just fine for a change.
J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer off James Shields , Jordan Lyles pitched six effective innings and the Astros beat the Kansas City Royals 3-1 on Wednesday night.
Lyles (2-1) allowed one run and six hits in his 50th career game. Travis Blackley and Hector Ambriz each got three outs before Jose Veras pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save one night after the bullpen struggled in a 7-3 loss.
"They've been taxed a lot this year and called upon on numerous occasions, so every once in a while you're going to have the kind of game that we had last night," manager Bo Porter said. "But again, it speaks to the character of the men down there. They hold themselves accountable to holding a lead, and tonight they did a tremendous job. All of them."
Bud Norris pitched six shutout innings Tuesday, but the Royals scored seven times in the final three innings. Houston bounced back quite nicely to take two of three for its fourth series win this season.
Shields (2-5) struck out seven in seven innings while yielding two runs and seven hits. He has gone seven or more innings in each of his last six starts, but hasn't won since April 30 due in part to his offense providing him with just five runs combined in his last four starts.
"It's a little frustrating," manager Ned Yost said. "Especially when James Shields goes out and gives you the type of performance he gives you about every time he goes out. We just have not done a good job with run support with him at all."
Shields is confident it will turn around soon.
"These guys are great. They are grinding every day," Shields said. "We are going through a little struggle right now. Our heads are high, and we are staying positive. It is a long season. By no means are we out of it."
The right-hander, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Tampa Bay, retired his first two batters before running into trouble. Jason Castro singled before Martinez drove a 2-2 pitch into the seats in right for his fourth homer.
"We were able to get him right away, first inning which is huge and it gives Lyles a little bit of comfort as well," Martinez said. "Pitchers like that ... good guys, you've got to get them early before they settle in."
Castro tacked on an RBI single in the eighth inning against Kelvin Herrera .
Houston's Jimmy Paredes got his first start of the season at third base in place of Matt Dominguez , who sat out with tightness in his left quadriceps. Paredes has struggled in the outfield in the last few games, causing two collisions, but was solid at third.
Alcides Escobar smoked a grounder to Paredes with one out in the eighth, and he made a perfect throw to first to get him out.
"I don't know how hard he threw that ball across the diamond, but I would love to put a clock on it though," Porter said of the play. "He almost mishandled it and he got control of it and it was absolutely whistled across the diamond. He looked comfortable over there."
Kansas City got its only run in the third when Jeff Francoeur hit a leadoff triple to the hill in center and George Kottaras followed with an RBI double. Alex Gordon walked with two down, but Lyles struck out Billy Butler to end the inning.
Lyles also got Gordon to bounce out with two runners on to end the fifth.
Castro, the catcher, was impressed with Lyles' work.
"That's the best I've seen him throw in a long time," Castro said. "He had command, didn't miss. When we were trying to go certain locations, he missed where we were trying to go. He didn't leave really anything over the plate for guys to hit and that's big when you can do that."
After their two-run first inning, the Astros had trouble stringing together hits against Shields. Martinez singled to start the fourth, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Chris Carter followed with a single, and Shields retired the next two batters to end the inning.
Gordon singled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
NOTES: Houston is off on Thursday. ... The Royals return home to open a four-game series with the Angels. ... Kansas City C Salvador Perez was out of the lineup for the second straight game after bruising his right hip after crashing into the railing chasing a foul ball on Monday. He said he has a gigantic bruise on his hip, but is OK and that he could have played on Tuesday. He is day to day. ... Dominguez is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday.