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KC@HOU: Shields strikes out seven over seven innings

Busch Stadium and Kauffman Stadium are separated by less than 250 miles, a manageable voyage across I-70.

The Cardinals and Royals, the lifeblood of baseball in Missouri, will meet for four games this week, split between the two ballparks that sit on opposite ends of the state.

In Monday's series opener in Kansas City, fans of the Interleague rivals will be treated to a dandy of a pitching matchup when aces James Shields and Adam Wainwright take the hill.

"[It] is going to be a great game," said Royals designated hitter Billy Butler. "You've got Wainwright and Shields, a great way to open up a series. There really does not need to be a pitch. Just look at the matchup -- you are going to see a great game. Wainwright and Shields are both on the top of their game right now. Wainwright is going to be tough."

Wainwright has fashioned a 6-3 record and 2.38 ERA while submitting nine quality starts in his 10 outings. He has walked only six batters in 72 innings this season. Last Tuesday, he limited the Padres to one run on four hits in 7 1/3 frames.

"We couldn't really solve Wainwright," Padres manager Bud Black said after his team was stymied by the right-hander. "[He had] just a nice mix of pitches. We couldn't do anything."

The Cardinals have backed Wainwright with plenty of run support this season. On four occasions, St. Louis has scored seven or more runs with Wainwright on the mound.

The same can't be said for Shields and the Royals. The right-hander sports a 2.47 ERA, but just a 2-5 record. Over his last four starts, he has compiled an 0-3 mark, despite a 1.74 ERA and .193 opponents batting average. The Royals have scored a total of five runs in Shields' last four starts.

"Every time Shields has taken the mound, it has been a pretty good matchup," said Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar. "It has usually been against the other team's ace and it definitely makes for a fun game. The way that he has been pitching, you know he is going to go deep and give us a pretty darn good chance to win. I think everybody gets excited about that."

Only once this season has Shields allowed more than three runs in a start. He is averaging better than seven frames per outing and has notched a quality start in all but one appearance.

"I'm not really too concerned about who I'm facing on the other side," Shields said. "I just want to go out there and do my job and give us a chance to win.

"I'm pretty new here, but I think it is definitely always good to face St. Louis. It's going to be a fun game, an exciting game, but my focus is to go out there and pitch and try to win the ballgame."

Cardinals: Day-to-day Beltran returns to KC
• Carlos Beltran will return to his old stomping grounds in Kansas City, where he played from 1998-2004. However, will he actually see the field? Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said "possibly." The outfielder sat out Sunday against the Dodgers because of left shoulder soreness.

"He does a pretty good job of evaluating [his own status]," Matheny said. "I know when he tells me he's dealing with something, I don't push it. I take those opportunities to get somebody else in, and he'll let me know when he's ready to go."

Royals: Duffy tosses three frames
• Left-hander Danny Duffy pitched three innings on Sunday in his first Minor League rehab appearance, as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. Duffy gave up two hits and two walks as he pitched for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He could return to Major League action by midseason.

Worth noting
• The Cardinals claimed four of their six meetings with the Royals last season and lead the overall series, 42-30.

• Butler was ejected Sunday for the second time in his career. Comments