Royals rely on Shields in Windy City

Streaking right-hander James Shields will close out his inaugural season with the Kansas City Royals on Friday night when they visit U.S. Cellular Field for the second test of a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox.

A veteran of 227 starts with the Tampa Bay Rays before heading to Kansas City in an offseason trade, Shields has won 12 of 21 decisions across 33 starts with the Royals while posting a 3.21 earned run average in 221 2/3 innings.

The win total is just four shy of his career high 16 established with the Rays in 2011, the same year he established a career-high in innings with 249 1/3.

Shields was just 6-8 through 24 starts this year, but has since won six of seven decisions while pitching at least seven innings in all but two of nine subsequent outings.

He defeated Cleveland, 7-1, with six innings of one-run ball on Sept. 16, then got a tough luck no-decision after tossing eight scoreless innings in the Royals' eventual 4-0 defeat of the Texas Rangers on Sept. 22.

Shields is 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 16 career meetings with Chicago.

He's opposed by 24-year-old lefty Chris Sale, who's maintained an ERA below 3.00 for most of the season in spite of a sub-.500 record.

Sale won 17 of 25 decisions in his first year as a starter with the White Sox last season, but fell to 11-13 after a 7-1 loss to Cleveland on Sept. 15 this year.

In one start since, on Sept. 21 in Detroit, he pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a game Chicago went on to lose, 7-6.

That outing lowered his ERA to 2.97 in 209 innings of work.

In 20 career meetings with the Royals, Sale is 5-6 with two saves and a 2.40 ERA in 78 2/3 innings.

On Thursday, Justin Maxwell scored in the seventh to break a tie game in favor of Kansas City, and the Royals held on for a 3-2 win over the White Sox.

Maxwell broke the 2-2 deadlock, sprinting home when Chicago catcher Bryan Anderson threw wide of first base after fielding a bunt by George Kottaras.

David Lough went 2-for-2 with a two-run homer for Kansas City and Greg Holland put his mark in Royals history by notching his team-record 46th save of the season. Jeremy Guthrie (15-12) picked up the win, allowing two runs on four hits over seven frames.

Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn each had solo homers for Chicago in the opener of this four-game set. Andre Rienzo (2-3) was lifted after allowing Maxwell's leadoff single in the seventh.

He was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on four hits.

The White Sox won eight of the first 15 games with the Royals in 2013, including three straight in a series at Kauffman Stadium in August. Kansas City won the 2012 season series, 12-6.