Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler disputes that his club is going through a tough stretch, but losses in seven of the Royals' last nine games has the squad falling back in the playoff race.

The Royals hope to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox in Thursday night's finale.

Kansas City put itself into the playoff picture by winning 19 of its first 24 games after the All-Star break, but is just 2-7 since and is now 9 1/2 games back of first place in the AL Central and 6 1/2 contests off the pace in the wild card race.

The Royals have been held to just two runs in the first two contests of this series, plating both in last night's 5-2 loss. Both runs came after the White Sox went ahead with a five-run fourth inning, keyed by Dayan Viciedo's grand slam.

Jeremy Guthrie allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings for Kansas City, which has dropped four consecutive tilts.

"We're above .500. In May, we weren't even close. We just played a couple bad games," Butler said. "If you looked seven games ago, you wouldn't even be having these questions. It's not a tough stretch just judging off seven games. That's just how it is."

For the White Sox, they have ripped off a season-high five straight wins and saw Andre Rienzo pick up his first career victory. The Brazilian-born righty allowed two runs on five hits and three walks over six innings.

Addison Reed fired a 1-2-3 ninth to notch his 33rd save of the season and was happy to be a part of history.

"It's awesome that I was able to get the save for him," Reed said of helping Rienzo. "Any time I go out there I'm trying to finish the ballgame with a win and today was extra special because of the fact that (Rienzo) was the first Brazilian pitcher to get a win."

The Royals had won four straight over the White Sox before this series and the clubs have now split the season matchup, 7-7.

The White Sox are looking to sweep the Royals in three games for the first time since July 9-11, 2010 in Chicago and in Kansas City for the first time since May 29-31 the previous year. Handed that task will be left-hander Jose Quintana.

Quintana has split his last two starts, both against Minnesota, and is coming off Friday's 5-2 road win over the Twins. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks, fanning seven over 6 2/3 innings.

"He gutted it out," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of his starter. "He went extra long for us tonight."

The 24-year-old is 7-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 25 starts this season and 0-2 lifetime versus the Royals with a 3.96 ERA in six meetings.

Kansas City counters with right-hander James Shields, who has won two straight and four of his past five starts with two scoreless outings in that span.

That includes Friday at Detroit, where he scattered three hits and four walks over seven frames of a 3-0 triumph in the nightcap of a doubleheader.

Shields also hurled seven scoreless frames at Chicago on July 26, improving to 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA in four starts versus the White Sox this year.

The 31-year-old's current surge has pushed his record to 8-8 with a 3.19 ERA in 26 starts this year, the first time he has not had a losing record since he was 2-2 back on May 6.