The Royals will play their penultimate series against a non-American League Central opponent in 2014 when they begin a three-game set against the Yankees on Friday in the Bronx. James Shields will get the ball for Kansas City opposite Michael Pineda.
The Royals finished a sweep of the Rangers with a 4-1 win on Wednesday and hold a one-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. New York, meanwhile, is four games behind Detroit for the AL's second Wild Card.
Shields will be making not only his 30th start of the season for the Royals, but the 30th start of his career against the Yankees. His encounters with the Yankees, mostly from his Tampa Bay years, resulted in a 9-16 record and 4.33 ERA. But he's 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his last seven.
Shields' most recent start against the Yankees came on Aug. 25 in a makeup game at Kauffman Stadium, also a matchup with Pineda. The Bombers tagged Shields for six runs and 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"There are a lot of good hitters over there, a lot of good veteran hitters, especially," Shields said. "That's not a ballclub you can take lightly."
Shields has been dominant on the road in his two years with the Royals, going 18-5 with a 2.64 ERA. That includes a 3-1 win at Yankee Stadium last season.
Pineda, meanwhile, has allowed only six runs over 23 1/3 innings (four starts) since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 13. He's surrendered 18 hits and just one walk while striking out 15 in that time.
The 25-year-old righty gave up two runs on seven hits in a 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday. He allowed only a two-run homer to Jose Bautista.
"Another great outing," catcher Brian McCann said. "This is what we've come to expect from him every time out."
That's because Pineda has allowed two or fewer runs in all eight of his starts across his Yankees career. Stats like such are encouraging for a team hoping to make a last-ditch playoff push.
"At this point, our mindset here is to just win as many games as we can," McCann said. "We've got one month to turn it on and we plan on doing that."
Royals: Making use of September callups
After adding reinforcements to their expanded roster, the Royals will arrive in New York with 36 players instead of the normal 25.
There's a different purpose for the new arrivals this year, however, as the Royals will concentrate on winning their division.
"All of these guys have a specific function," manager Ned Yost said. "In years past, I'd bring these guys up and give 'em a look -- they'd be in the field. But most of these guys are going to stay in their role."
Among the callups are outfielders Lane Adams and Terrance Gore, seen primarily as pinch-runners. There's power-hitting outfielder Carlos Peguero, pegged as a pinch-hitter and occasional DH.
Johnny Giavotella is not only a right-handed bat off the bench, he can also fill in at second and third, especially now that Christian Colon has a fractured finger tip on his right hand. Francisco Pena is the fallback catcher.
Among the pitchers, left-hander Brandon Finnegan could develop into a lefty specialist, and right-handers Liam Hendriks and Casey Coleman figure as middle or long relievers.
Yankees: Prado's status in doubt for Friday
Martin Prado sat out for a second straight game Thursday and his mild left hamstring strain could cost him more than that.
Prado suffered the strain while running to first in the seventh inning Tuesday and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
Before Thursday's game, Prado hit in the cage and ran at about 50 percent. But that's not cutting it for Prado.
"The game speed is different," Prado said. "You're not going to go 50 percent. I don't like to go 50 percent. If I'm not 100, I'm not going to go."
The utility man, who has played four positions since joining the Yankees on July 31, has hit .292/.318/.500 over 29 games with New York.
• The Royals lead baseball with 130 stolen bases. The Yankees are tied for second in the AL with 95.
• Christian Colon hopes to play through his injury by pinch-running or appearing in a bunting situation.
"It's a little swollen and we'll just wait for the swelling to go down," he said of his broken index finger. "Who knows -- maybe I can throw in seven days."
• Antoan Richardson, who pinch-ran in the seventh inning of the Yankees' 5-4 win Thursday, is the 56th player used by Yankees this year. That ties the franchise record for players used in a season set by the franchise last season.
• On July 1, McCann called his offensive season "horrible." Since that date, he's hitting .276 (45-for-176) with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 42 games.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.