(SportsNetwork.com) - The Baltimore Orioles try to maintain a presence at the top of the American League East as they close out a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Losers of five of the last seven, the O's entered the weekend with first place in the division all to themselves, but that was before the New York Yankees put together a three-game win streak and Baltimore came up short in a 1-0 decision on Saturday versus the Royals.
Still a solid 13-9 on the road, the Orioles produced a mere three hits in the loss yesterday, as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz each registered singles. Starting pitcher Bud Norris made his way through 7 1/3 innings, permitting just four hits and the lone run of the contest.
Picking up the win for the Royals, who are now seven games out of first in the AL Central after snapping a brief two-game slide, was Danny Duffy who was perfect through seven innings before surrendering a pair of hits. Despite walking two and allowing another single in the ninth, Greg Holland registered his 11th save after striking out three.
"My defense -- my defense played a great game," Duffy stated. "A lot of hard- hit shots at the boys and they stayed right in there. Gordo [Alex Gordon] made a spectacular play in left and I just tried to execute and do my best to get outs, and it clicked tonight."
The only run of the contest came in the bottom of the first when Norichika Aoki, who tallied two of his team's four hits, came in on a two-out single by Billy Butler.
Thanks to the shutout, the KC pitching staff's ERA dipped to 3.37, third-best in the AL.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is slated to take the mound for the O's in today's offering. Jimenez suffered four setbacks in his first five games of the season, but appears to be getting his act together thanks to back-to-back triumphs versus Minnesota and Tampa Bay on the road earlier this month.
On Tuesday Jimenez threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and a pair of walks, while striking out seven, but failed to earn a decision in what turned into a 4-1 setback versus Detroit at home.
Having spent the previous three seasons with the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, Jimenez is quite familiar with the Royals and has a career mark of 4-3 and a 3.79 ERA to show for 10 all-time appearances versus the club.
Since dropping his first two decisions of the season, James Shields has bounced back to record five victories in his last six, and is hoping the trend continues when he clashes with the Baltimore lineup this afternoon. The right- hander is coming off a successful meeting with Colorado earlier in the week when he allowed just one run on five hits and struck out eight during a seven- inning stretch.
Similar to Jimenez, Shields also spent the majority of his career in the same division with the Orioles (as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays), which means he too has had plenty of experience against today's foe. This marks his 26th start versus the O's and already has a 10-7 record, with a 3.51 ERA to show for his efforts.
With the victory yesterday the Royals, who claimed a 4-3 advantage in the series last season, evened the head-to-head record between the squads in 2014 at three games apiece.