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KC@BOS: Shields strikes out eight over six strong

The Royals traded for James Shields because of games like this. The Tigers have Justin Verlander ready for games like this.

The end result of a meeting between two of the true No. 1 starters in the American League should be a treat for fans of great pitching.

So when Kansas City meets Detroit on Thursday afternoon in the finale of this brief AL Central series, expect high intensity and high expectations from each pitcher.

For Shields, who came over from Tampa Bay in the offseason, it's always been a challenge to face Verlander, but it doesn't change his game plan.

"Obviously, there are a lot of good pitchers in and around the league and he's one of the premier pitchers in the league, no doubt about it," Shields said.

"I go in there with same mindset as I do every single start; I feel like if I pitch my game and pitch well, I think I'm going to do fine. Obviously, when you're facing a guy like him, you can't make too many mistakes, but I know that going in. I know that going in on any start, really. But I don't really try to change too much."

Royals manager Ned Yost seems to agree with that approach.

"Everybody wants to make a big deal out of the matchup, but we just want to win the game," Yost said. "We think we have a chance to compete in the game against Verlander with Shields."

So does Tigers skipper Jim Leyland.

Leyland has watched as the Royals' pitching has steadied their team in the early stages of the 2013 campaign, and he's aware of the challenge his team will face in Shields.

"They've added some veteran pitching," Leyland said. "They've had a good bullpen with some pretty good arms the last couple years. They've been getting experience and they're better. It's pretty good when you've got a successful pitcher like [Bruce] Chen all of a sudden in the bullpen, obviously, because they've got [Ervin] Santana and Shields now.

"That's pretty good. You can tell that they focused on getting some starting pitching because their young players are really good. They've got some more experience now."

Royals: Hot Holland
Reliever Greg Holland has struck out eight of the last nine batters he has faced, dating to a 1-2-3 ninth on Wednesday in Atlanta. Holland has 13 strikeouts through his first six innings in 2013, an average of 19.5 per nine, and is averaging 11.93 strikeouts per nine innings for his career (201 strikeouts in 151 2/3 innings), the highest ratio in franchise history among pitchers with at least 100 innings.

• Shortstop Alcides Escboar struck out twice on Wednesday night, but he has only struck out six times in 73 at-bats this year, a rate of one every 12.2 at-bats.

• Shields has worked at least six innings in 18 straight starts, dating to last July 20 vs. Seattle. The stretch includes 15 quality starts and four complete games.

Tigers: Focused Fielder
Prince Fielder is hitting .384 (68-for-177) with 10 doubles, 14 home runs and 51 RBIs over his last 54 games at Comerica Park dating to June 21, 2012. His .384 batting average at home during that span is tops among all Major League players with at least 150 plate appearances at home in the same period.

• Tigers pitchers struck out nine Royals on Wednesday and the staff is now two strikeouts shy of matching the 2011 club for the most strikeouts by a Tigers team in April since at least 1921.

• Torii Hunter enters Thursday's game against Kansas City two home runs shy of 300 in his Major League career. Hunter would become the 17th active player with 300 or more homers.

Worth noting
• Royals outfielder Alex Gordon has hit safely in 15 of the 18 games played to this point of 2013 and has reached base safely in 17 of the 18.

• Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is hitting .379 (131-for-346) with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2011 season, tops in the AL during that stretch.

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