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The wild card race in the American League intensifies Monday when the Cleveland Indians visit the Kansas City Royals in the first of three crucial games. Cleveland enters a half-game out of a wild card spot, while Kansas City sits 3 1/2 games behind the leaders. The Indians have won nine of 12 overall after completing a four-game sweep at the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
This marks the opener of the final homestand of the season for the Royals, who have won eight of their last 10 at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won two of three at Cleveland last week before dropping two of three at Detroit, capped by a 3-2 setback Sunday. The Indians will throw Scott Kazmir against James Shields for the second time in a span of six days.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland), FSN Kansas City (Kansas City)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians LH Scott Kazmir (8-8, 4.24 ERA) vs. Royals RH James Shields (11-9, 3.38)
Kazmir lasted just four innings in a 6-2 loss opposite Shields on Thursday at Cleveland. It marked the fifth time in a span of eight starts that Kazmir has lasted five innings or fewer. That has been the case in three of his four starts against Kansas City this year, during which the 29-year-old has posted a 4.43 ERA.
Shields gave up two runs in eight innings against the Indians his last time out to rebound from a horrid outing against Detroit five days earlier. In contrast to Kazmir, the 31-year-old has made it through seven frames in six of his last seven outings. While Shields has won nine times and has a 2.12 ERA on the road, he is just 2-6 with a 4.94 mark at home.
1. Cleveland outscored Chicago by a 32-5 margin during its four-game sweep.
2. Kansas City has had a player picked off base in three straight games. No team has had that happen in four straight this season.
3. Indians 1B Nick Swisher has homered five times in his last nine games.
PREDICTION: Royals 5, Indians 4