The Royals have a huge opportunity to secure a vital series victory with ace James Shields squaring off against the White Sox's Jose Quintana on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
After dropping a 3-1 decision in Monday's opener, Kansas City evened the set with a 7-1 win on Tuesday night.
Shields (9-5, 3.70 ERA) will be looking to help the Royals win their first series since July 9, when they took two of three against Tampa Bay.
After a rough stretch for his lofty standards, Shields has settled down in his last three starts, posting a 2.29 ERA over that stretch.
His last start was not classic Shields, though. The right-hander allowed four runs (three earned) in 5 2/3 innings and KC fell, 5-4, to the Red Sox on Friday.
Royals manager Ned Yost questioned himself for pulling Shields in the sixth inning, with his club holding a 4-3 lead and a runner on second with two outs. Jonny Gomes, pinch-hitting for Jackie Bradley Jr., hit a go-ahead two-run homer off lefty reliever Scott Downs.
"I should have stuck with Shields to get us through that inning. He was at 111 pitches [actually, 112], Bradley was 0-for-2 off him, and I just outsmarted myself," Yost said.
But Shields dazzled in the two starts before the loss to Boston, going seven solid innings consecutively. He struck out 10 and allowed zero runs against his former team on July 7 in a 6-0 win over the Rays. Then, he surrendered two runs while striking out eight in a 5-1 loss vs. the Tigers on July 12.
Quintana has evolved into one of the White Sox's most reliable starters.
His last six outings have been magnificent, as the left-hander has posted a 1.77 ERA in 40 2/3 innings to go with 46 strikeouts.
Quintana's 3.26 ERA ranked 16th in the American League entering Tuesday, ahead of decorated starters such as Jered Weaver, Max Scherzer and Hiroki Kuroda, among others.
Quintana's improved strikeout numbers have been the most encouraging sign.
Quintana posted a 5.3 strikeout per nine ratio in 2012, then a 7.4 ratio the following season. This year, it sits at 8.3. He's coming off a no-decision last Friday against the Astros. Quintana allowed two runs in five innings, while striking out eight.
This will be Quintana's third outing of the season against the Royals. He lost on June 13 (six runs in six innings) as well as May 21 (three runs in 7 1/3 innings).
Royals: Vargas not likely for Sunday
Left-hander Jason Vargas is still feeling the effects of his July 9 appendectomy when he throws, so it's unlikely that he'll return to the rotation on Sunday against the Indians.
"He still feels it pulling a little bit when he throws so, of course, that's all going to have to go away. He's going to have to throw without discomfort," Yost said.
That makes Bruce Chen, who has started in Vargas' place twice, the probable starter on Sunday. Chen notched his 82nd career win -- tying him with Mariano Rivera for the most by a Panamanian-born player -- against the White Sox on Tuesday.
White Sox: Abreu rests back
Chicago played without its most lethal bat in Tuesday's loss, as rookie Jose Abreu sat with back stiffness.
Abreu missed his first game since sitting out 14 contests from late May to early June with left ankle tendinitis.
"His ankle has been fine. This is just more of you can see him stretching his back and doing some moves that you know it doesn't quite feel right," Ventura said. "It's just more to give him a day."
Abreu must wait until Wednesday for the chance to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, and collect a hit in 31 of his last 32 games.
The rookie leads MLB in home runs (29) and slugging percentage (.619).
• Mike Moustakas collected his third career two-homer game on Tuesday, while also driving in three runs.
• Adam Eaton waited until the ninth inning on Tuesday -- a two-out single off Royals closer Greg Holland -- to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.