It's not that players are uninterested. They're simply tired.
The Royals are coming off a rain-delayed 6-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays less than 24 hours earlier. The game ended around 12:15 a.m. CT on Friday, after which the Royals showered, dressed and headed to the airport for a flight to Chicago in the wee hours of the morning.
Kansas City (37-84) has the second-worst record in the majors behind the Baltimore Orioles (36-85). The Royals have lost 11 of 14 games and are 19-40 on the road.
Chicago (44-76) also has struggled badly this season, but the club will go for its third straight win after posting back-to-back wins over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday and Wednesday. The White Sox have won eight of 13 games against the Royals in 2018.
White Sox right-hander James Shields (4-14, 4.41 ERA) will make his 26th start of the season and the 398th of his career. The only active pitchers who boast more career starts are Bartolo Colon (550), CC Sabathia (531), Justin Verlander (411) and Zack Greinke (406).
Shields' rough record does not reflect his performance throughout most of the year. The 36-year-old has notched 15 quality starts, and has pitched at least six innings in 18 of his past 21 outings.
In his last 11 starts on the South Side, Shields is 3-5 with a 2.95 ERA (23 earned runs in 73 1/3 innings). However, poor run support has dogged him both at home and on the road.
"It's been a frustrating season," Shields said to the Chicago Sun-Times after his most recent performance in which he allowed two earned runs in seven innings against the Cleveland Indians but took another loss. "There's no doubt about it. I'm just going to go out there and keep trying to throw quality starts and go as deep as I can in the game and give us a chance to win."
Shields is 9-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 16 career starts against Kansas City, and he is 2-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season.
He played for the Royals in 2013 and 2014, helping the franchise reach the World Series in his final season there and watching as the team lost a decisive Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants.
For Kansas City, right-hander Jakob Junis will make his 23rd start. He grew up in Sterling, Ill., about 115 miles west of Chicago, and likely will have friends and family in attendance when he takes the mound.
Junis (6-11, 4.82) has allowed two runs in 11 innings over his past two starts against the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. His three-game unbeaten streak is his best mark of the season.
The 25-year-old is 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA in two career starts against the White Sox, with both starts coming this year. In his last meeting Aug. 1, he picked up a victory despite allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings. He walked three, struck out five and gave up a long ball to Yoan Moncada.
The Royals expect to be without outfielder Brian Goodwin (groin strain), right-hander Ian Kennedy (oblique strain) and left-hander Danny Duffy (shoulder impingement) as they open the series.
"I think that it's just going to be a quick deal," Duffy said recently to The Athletic. "I was told a few times that if we were well within contention that I'd still be going. I believe that, too. I feel like I can."