James Shields is said to have first earned the nickname "Big Game James" in the minors because he was a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and the moniker's originator, James Worthy.
The Kansas City right-hander can prove he's deserving of the name by winning one of the Royals' most important games of the season.
Kansas City will attempt to leave Detroit on Wednesday night with a one-game lead in the AL Central, while Rick Porcello looks to finish off a three-game sweep by adding to his recent dominance of the Royals.
Kansas City (79-64) headed to Comerica Park with a two-game lead that was erased by a pair of losses to start the series, including a 4-2 defeat Tuesday. The Royals, who lead by less than a percentage point, opened the month 5-1 before facing Detroit (80-65).
"Being tied for first doesn't mean a thing when we step on the field (Wednesday)," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose club is 11-4 in the season series.
The Royals will turn to Shields (13-7, 3.23 ERA) to help salvage the finale, and he appears poised for the pivotal start after allowing one run over 15 1-3 innings in his last two outings.
He came within two outs of his second complete game this season Friday at the New York Yankees. Shields yielded three hits, walked none and struck out six in a 1-0 win.
"This is what we play baseball for," Shields told MLB's official website. "Hopefully, we can enjoy the moment, embrace it and have fun with it."
Shields probably couldn't have picked a better setting than Detroit, where he's 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last six starts and 4-0 with a 2.64 ERA in seven career outings.
He gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings in his only appearance there this season March 31, but did not get a decision in a 4-3 loss. He's had contrasting performances in two subsequent matchups in Kansas City.
Shields was charged with a season-high eight runs and 12 hits in 6 1-3 innings in an 8-2 loss May 2. He then yielded two runs and fanned eight in seven innings July 12 but didn't get enough support in a 5-1 defeat.
Porcello (15-10, 3.30) was the opposing starter for both of those games and will try to give the Tigers sole possession of the Central lead for the first time since Aug. 10 while rebounding from a pair of lackluster outings. The right-hander has given up a combined 12 runs and 21 hits in 9 2-3 innings in those back-to-back losses.
He was charged with six runs and 10 hits in three innings in an 8-2 loss to San Francisco on Friday.
Porcello is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts against the Royals, all on the road. He's given up a combined three runs in 14 innings in two matchups this season, the most recent on July 12.
J.D. Martinez will try to provide some support by adding to his .463 average, five homers and 15 RBIs against Kansas City this season. Martinez, who homered and drove in two runs on Tuesday, is 5 for 12 with one home run in his matchups against Shields.
Omar Infante, who was 3 for 5 with an RBI single Tuesday, is 4 for 6 with a triple against Porcello this season.
The Tigers haven't swept a home series of three games or more against Kansas City since four consecutive wins Sept. 24-27, 2012. They opened the season with back-to-back home wins over the Royals from March 31-April 2.