Royals try to avoid sweep in Toronto

James Shields tries to extend his four-start unbeaten streak Sunday when the Kansas City Royals aim to avert a three-game sweep in Toronto.

Winners in five of their last six games, the Blue Jays are playing the role of spoiler. Toronto's 4-2 victory yesterday handed the Royals another setback in their quest to climb the ladder in the wild card standings.

Kansas City, which came into this series with a five-game winning streak, is 6 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild card spot in the American League.

Shields, who has three wins over his last four starts, opened this road trip on Tuesday at Minnesota and got the win in a 6-1 final. The right-hander allowed four hits and a run over 7 1/3 innings.

He's 11-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 career starts against the Blue Jays. Shields had won five straight decisions versus Toronto until April 13 this season. Despite a complete game effort that night, Shields was handed a 3-2 defeat. He gave up only two hits.

Shields has gone the distance in his last two starts at Rogers Centre. Additionally, he's 7-3 on the road this year, including a 6-0 mark with a 1.97 ERA in seven such starts since June 28.

Left-hander J.A. Happ, who has one win in his last 10 appearances, counters for the Blue Jays. Happ's last two defeats have come to the Yankees. He's won both of his career starts against the Royals and has posted a 4.91 ERA.

Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis produced the lead and insurance runs courtesy of bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the eighth inning in yesterday's game.

Josh Thole also drove in a run, while Jose Reyes collected three hits and scored once. Edwin Encarnacion added a pair of hits, including his 1,000th career hit, for the Blue Jays.

R.A. Dickey (11-12) worked eight innings, giving up seven hits and two runs with six strikeouts. Casey Janssen kept the visitors off the board in the final frame for his 26th save.

"I was able to change speeds a lot today. I was able to keep the ball down and get some outs with it," said Dickey. "Any time you can mess with the speeds in the strike zone, you're going to have a better chance of the opponent mis- hitting balls."

Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar knocked in a run each for the Royals.

Jeremy Guthrie started, scattering eight hits and one run while fanning four over seven innings.

Aaron Crow didn't throw a strike to either Lawrie or Davis with the bases full when the Blue Jays produced their lead.

"Throwing eight straight balls is a terrible way to lose the game," Crow said. "Jeremy pitched a heck of a game. The bullpen came in the eighth and really didn't do their job today."

The Blue Jays won two of three when the teams last played, from April 12-14 in Toronto.