While the Kansas City Royals arrived at Rogers Centre enjoying one of their longest winning streaks of the season, they haven't seen their success carry over north of the border.
Kansas City tries to avoid a three-game sweep against the Toronto Blue Jays, who go for a sixth win in seven games Sunday.
The Royals (69-66) had won five straight by a 34-8 margin before failing to generate much offense in Friday's 3-2 loss. They suffered another close defeat Saturday, falling 4-2 after Aaron Crow issued back-to-back bases-loaded walks during Toronto's three-run eighth-inning rally.
"We can't be coming in and doing that at this time of year," said manager Ned Yost , who was ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Will Little. "We've got to command the ball a little better in these crucial situations. Aaron does, anyway."
Sitting in sixth place in the AL wild-card standings, Kansas City has gone 3-10 in the series since the start of last year.
The Blue Jays (62-74) have followed a season worst-tying seven-game losing streak with a 5-1 stretch. R.A. Dickey threw eight strong innings and Jose Reyes collected three hits Saturday.
Ryan Goins has also provided a big spark, hitting safely in each of his first eight career games to match Jesse Barfield 's team record set in 1981. The second baseman, who was called up last Thursday, has gone 12 for 30 (.400) with seven runs.
The Blue Jays will try to keep things going against Royals starter James Shields (9-8, 3.14 ERA), who is seeking his major league best-tying 23rd quality start.
The right-hander has been nearly untouchable in his last four starts, going 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA. Shields gave up one run and four hits in 7 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 6-1 victory at Minnesota.
"I've got a ton of quality starts this year and I feel like I've been pitching well all year," he said. "The wins are going to come. I'm not really too worried about it. I'm just going to keep grinding out the rest of the season and hope for the best."
Shields had gone 5-0 with a 0.94 ERA during a six-start stretch against the Blue Jays before throwing a two-hitter in a 3-2 loss April 13. Shields has also gone the distance in his last two starts in Toronto, winning both while allowing a combined one run and striking out 19.
The Blue Jays counter with J.A. Happ (3-4, 5.46), who has posted an 8.10 ERA in losing his last two starts. The left-hander yielded five runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 7-1 defeat to the New York Yankees .
"I know I can pitch better," he said. "I'm going to try not to think about this one too much, try not to overanalyze it. I felt good, I'm healthy, I'm throwing the ball well. I just need to take that next step."
Happ has won both his career starts against the Royals despite a 4.91 ERA. He surrendered four runs in five innings but earned the win in an 8-4 road victory April 12.
Alcides Escobar is 1 for 10 versus Happ, and Justin Maxwell , Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler are a combined 0 for 12. Butler, hitless in his last 11 at-bats, is 2 for his last 42 against the Blue Jays.
|Kansas City Royals|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 11, 2013||Miguel Tejada||60-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 09, 2013||Lorenzo Cain||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|August 04, 2013||Salvador Perez||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 04, 2013||David Lough||Day-to-Day||Right quad tightness|
|August 04, 2013||Salvador Perez||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 21, 2013||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left hip bone bruise|
|August 21, 2013||Maicer Izturis||60-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|August 17, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|August 10, 2013||Juan Perez||60-Day DL||Torn UCL ligament, left elbow|
TORONTO (AP) -- The Kansas City Royals won't have much hope in the wild-card race without a strong September from veteran pitcher James Shields .
One game into the regular season's final month, he's off to an excellent start.
Shields pitched seven innings of three-hit ball to win his fourth straight decision, Eric Hosmer drove in two runs and the Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.
"It just seems like he's getting stronger and stronger as the year goes on," manager Ned Yost said of Shields, who went 4-1 in August.
The Royals, who entered play 6 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay in the race for the second AL wild-card berth, won for the sixth time in eight games.
"We're fighting right now," Shields said. "Today was a big game."
Twelve of Kansas City's final 26 games are against Cleveland and Detroit, the two teams ahead of them in the AL Central.
Shields, who played on the Tampa Bay team that overturned a nine-game deficit in the final month to reach the 2011 playoffs, understands that "anything can happen."
"We've got a lot of games against Detroit, we've got a lot of games against Cleveland left," Shields said. "We've got some room to catch up."
Outfielder Jarrod Dyson said the Royals remain confident that a postseason spot is within their grasp.
"We're still pushing for it," Dyson said. "We're not going to let up. We're going to give it all we've got."
Hosmer had two hits and two RBIs. It was his 51st multihit game of the season, tying him with five other players for the major league lead.
Former Blue Jays infielder Emilio Bonifacio had two hits, scored twice and stole two bases for the Royals. He's 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts since joining Kansas City on Aug. 14.
Shields (10-8) improved to 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his past five starts. The right-hander walked one and matched a season-high with nine strikeouts.
"I was mixing my pitches up as well as I can and trying to keep them off balance," Shields said.
In shutting down the Blue Jays, Shields also extended his recent run of road success. He's 7-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his past eight starts away from home, and 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 total road outings.
"He's always tough," Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes said of Shields. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game. When his team scores some runs early, he's going to get tougher and tougher."
Luke Hochevar worked the eighth and Greg Holland finished as the Royals recorded their 10th shutout of the season.
Shields set down the first 11 batters in order before Edwin Encarnacion singled in the fourth. Adam Lind followed with a walk but Brett Lawrie grounded out.
Kansas City took the lead in the first when Bonifacio walked, stole second, went to third on catcher J.P. Arencibia's throwing error and scored on Eric Hosmer 's grounder.
The Royals benefited from an interference call in a four-run, bat-around third. Dyson led off with a single and stole second, but appeared to be caught in a rundown after trying to advance on Alcides Escobar 's grounder. But Reyes was called for interference after Dyson ran into him.
"I wasn't going to stop right there and just let him tag me because he was in my way," Dyson said.
Even though Dyson was initially ruled out, Reyes said he was waiting for another ump to overturn the call.
"Kind of a tough day," Reyes said. "I didn't mean to do that."
The call putting runners at the corners for Alex Gordon , who hit an RBI single. Bonifacio followed with an RBI single and stole second before Hosmer hit a two-run single to right.
"It was a play that helped us break that inning open a little bit," Yost said of Dyson's escape. "It worked out great."
Rajai Davis hit a one-out triple in the fifth but Shields fanned Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar to end the threat.
Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ (3-5) lost his third straight start, allowing five runs, three earned, and six hits in four innings. He walked one and struck out three.
"He was kind of in and out of the zone a little bit," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's a consistency thing."
Toronto second baseman Ryan Goins went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, snapping an eight-game hitting streak to start his career.
NOTES: Kansas City recalled LHP Francisley Bueno from Triple-A Omaha and selected C Brett Hayes from Triple-A. ... The Blue Jays activated All-Star RHP Steve Delabar (shoulder) and RHP Dustin McGowan (strained right oblique) off the 15-day DL. ... Toronto was shut out for the eighth time. ... The roof was open when the game began but started to close in the top of the ninth.