Indians, Royals jockey for position in series finale

Before hitting the road, the Cleveland Indians hope to gain more ground in the American League wild card race Wednesday afternoon, when they close out a three-game series versus the playoff-hungry Kansas City Royals.

The Indians and Baltimore Orioles are 1 1/2 games off one of the final two wild card spots and the Royals sit three games behind. The New York Yankees are in the mix, too, residing two games in back of Tampa Bay.

Cleveland, which will open a seven-game trip to Chicago and Kansas City on Thursday, dropped a 6-3 decision to the Royals Tuesday night. Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie was sharp through six innings and the Indians could only muster a run on nine hits against the right-hander.

"He's competitive, he throws a lot of strikes," Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall said of Guthrie. "He's just consistent and you know what to expect out of him."

Chisenhall didn't have an issue against Guthrie and recorded three hits, one of which was a double. Michael Bourn drove in two runs and Michael Brantley ended 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Indians, who had won six of eight games, including Monday's 4-3 victory behind 10 strikeouts from Ubaldo Jimenez.

Indians starting pitcher Zach McAllister was dealt the loss Tuesday for giving up four runs in five innings.

Scott Kazmir will try to have better success than McAllister when he takes the mound Wednesday afternoon. Kazmir ended a four-game winless streak (0-3) with six scoreless innings and 12 strikeouts in an 8-1 win over the New York Mets on Friday. Kazmir was 0-3 with a 7.11 ERA in his previous four outings.

The left-hander is 8-7 with a 4.17 ERA in 25 starts this season and 4-3 in 13 career starts against the Royals. He has faced them three times already in 2013, going 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA.

Kansas City is still battling for one of the final two playoff spots in the AL and helped its cause with Tuesday's win. Guthrie was on his game and Greg Holland was called on in the ninth to close it out for his 41st save.

"I thought Guthrie did an outstanding job," Royals manager Ned Yost said of his starter. "The reason I say outstanding is because he pitched and kept us in the game through six innings without his best stuff."

Mike Moustakas had a two-run double and Salvador Perez singled home a run during a three-run sixth inning for the Royals, who grabbed a 4-1 lead at the moment and went on to win for the 12th time in 17 tries. Alcides Escobar homered and Billy Butler went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in the win.

After visiting the Indians, K.C. will open a three-game series at Detroit this weekend.

James Shields looks to pitch the Royals to a series win Wednesday afternoon and had his unbeaten streak halted the last time out. Shields was 4-0 with a 1.53 earned run average in five starts before taking on the Detroit Tigers in Friday's 16-2 drubbing. Shields was hammered for 14 hits and 10 runs across 3 2/3 innings and is 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 30 starts.

Shields, a right-hander, has no record and a 4.96 ERA in three starts against Cleveland this season and has struggled in this series, going 1-5 in 12 career starts.

The Indians have won nine of 15 meetings with the Royals this season.