The names and places change every five days, but the story for James Shields has been mostly the same lately. He pitches deep into the game, shutting down the opposing lineup for seven or eight innings, and he doesn't get much to show for it.
The Royals will have a chance to flip the script and reward Shields with a win Wednesday night against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Shields has given up only five runs over his last three starts, but the Royals have only scored four runs in those games. The veteran right-hander owns a 2.45 ERA, but also a 2-4 record that doesn't reflect how well he's pitched. In his four losses, he has a 2.32 ERA and a .198 opponents' average, but the Royals have scored just five runs behind him.
"He's pitched great," Royals manager Ned Yost said Friday, when Shields allowed two runs over eight innings but lost to the A's, his second complete-game loss of the year. "Every time he steps on the mound, he competes his heart out. It's just one of those games where we can't give him much support."
Shields has pitched at least six innings in 23 straight starts dating back to last July 20, when he was with the Rays. That stretch includes 20 quality starts and five complete games.
The Astros, meanwhile, have picked up nine of their 13 wins against right-handed starting pitchers. Manager Bo Porter and his players say there's not much to that figure, noting that it doesn't matter how well they hit the opposing starter if they don't get quality pitching on their end as well.
"As far as who starts against you, that's the other team. In this league, it comes down to your approach, getting quality at-bats and backing that up with pitching and defense," Porter said. "Right or left, it doesn't shake us. We have a balanced ballclub that, if it's a lefty, we can run a right-handed-dominated lineup at them. If it's a righty, we can run a bunch of lefties at them -- and we have a bunch of switch-hitters, too."
"I don't necessarily think our guys feel more comfortable against righties," added catcher Jason Castro. "We've just faced some tough left-handers. That's played a part in the stat."
The Astros will send a right-hander of their own to the mound Wednesday night in Jordan Lyles, who's coming off a solid outing against the Pirates in which he allowed two runs (one earned) over five innings. Lyles' only other start against Kansas City came on June 20, 2012, when he tossed seven innings and allowed two runs on three hits in a 2-1 loss.
Royals: Players adjust to playing indoors
As temperatures rise in Houston, the Royals have had to play their first indoor games of the season this week with the roof closed at Minute Maid Park.
"It doesn't matter to me," center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "It's colder and darker than normal. ... I can deal with it. I'd rather have the dome than deal with the heat. It makes it a lot cooler for everybody. I'd rather be comfortable."
And Kansas City has had to play in plenty of uncomfortable situations this season, given the inclement weather that seemingly followed the Royals around for the first month of the season.
"I love it," second baseman Chris Getz said of the indoor environment. "It's so different. There's no wind."
Astros: Dierker named special assistant to president
The Astros announced Tuesday that former player, manager and broadcast Larry Dierker is returning to the team as an advisor to new president Reid Ryan and a goodwill ambassador, handling speaking endeavors and engaging with fans at Minute Maid Park. His role will also include contributions to Houston's Gameday Magazine. Dierker had been a part of the Astros organization for more than 50 years before a public fallout with the club this offseason.
"He was the Houston Astros for so many people," Ryan said. "I think you have to have him back, and we had to build this network with ex-players, guys from each generation. And he's the face of that generation, and we wanted to get him back here with us."
• The Astros Foundation will raise funds during Houston's current homestand to aid those affected by Monday's tornado in Moore, Okla. Moore is a suburb of Oklahoma City, the home of Houston's Triple-A affiliate.
The Astros will hold a "Jerseys Off Their Backs" silent auction through May 28 at Minute Maid Park, where fans can bid on game-worn jerseys and make cash donations at the community clubhouse. All proceeds will go toward the American Red Cross relief efforts.
• Shields has only faced the Astros once in his career, but it was a outing worth remembering. He threw a complete-game three-hitter and allowed only one run in Tampa Bay's 5-1 win over Houston on June 25, 2011.
• With Bud Norris' six shutout innings Tuesday night, Astros starters have posted a 2.35 ERA (eight earned runs in 30 2/3 innings) over their last five games.