When Cy Albers's name was written into the line-up card today, it was almost as if the whole world knew what was in store for the Kansas City Royals.
James Shields knew.
The Royals offense knew.
The Twins offense and defense knew.
And Cy Albers definitely knew.
Apparently unencumbered by the need to come up big in a post-trade-deadline, somewhat meaningful game, James Shields ceded Twin runs early and often. By early, of course, I mean that James Shields gave up a lead-off homer to Brian Dozier to kick off the first. By the time the road half of the first was done, there had been twin Twin dong hangings of a most demoralizing fashion with Justin Morneau getting in on the action driving in Jamey Carroll, who stood on second after being walked and advancing on a throwing error by Shields himself on a pick-off throw in the dirt to Hosmer. By the time Shields had finished the sixth inning, he'd thrown an unimpressive 110 pitches, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits, three walks, one hit-by-pitch, and three homers; and as if that weren't enough, he balked in a run trying to trick/pick off Chris Colabello at third in what was already a 5 - 0 game in the top of the sixth.
For their part, the Royals offense were completely befuddled by Cy Albers. Having heard that they were to be facing a soft-tossing lefty, the Royals offense set off to replicate a pathetic performance recalling their most embarrassing outings of yesteryear. An amped up Albers--making his first Major League appearance--had a fastball that was sitting in the high 80s and touching 89, with his off-speed stuff dipping down to the 74 MPH range. Eric Hosmer singled as the second batter in the first inning but was immediately erased on the front end of a Billy Butler double-play grounder. That was the last base-runner that Cy Albers would deal with until the sixth inning, facing the minimum through the first five innings before allowing Alcides Escobar to reach base on an ultimately meaningless two-out ground-ball single that squeezed through the right side of the infield, just out of the reach of a diving Joe Mauer. Hosmer would lead the next inning off with a single, but two fielder's choices and a pop out later the rookie southpaw was out of the inning maintaining his record of not having allowed a Royal to reach second base.
The Twins' offense was clearly not worried about facing James Shields. Dozier, Morneau, and Colabello combined to hit as many home runs off Shields in one six-inning outing as he allowed in either June or July. Only Joe Mauer, Oswaldo Arcia, and Doug Bernier didn't reach base against Shields, and Dozier, Carroll, Colabello, Chris Hermann, and Clete Thomas reached multiple times. To add insult to injury, Will Smith came in to relieve Shields in the seventh and didn't allow a base-runner in three innings of perfect relief that saw him strike out two more Twins than Shields (five), despite pitching three fewer innings on 66 fewer pitches, while making the Twins' offensive attack look like they did the previous evening while getting embarrassed by Jeremy Guthrie.
It took until the bottom of the ninth inning before the Royals would even advance a runner to second base, as Cy Albers threw a fourth ball to Eric Hosmer on his 109th pitch to push Lorenzo Cain (who reached on a fielder's choice following an Alcides Escobar bloop single) to second base for the first Royal to reach scoring position with a scant two outs remaining. Facing his first batter, right-handed reliever Casey Fien walked Billy Butler on four pitches to load the bases. Of course, a scuffling Alex Gordon his batting clean-up now, so he worked himself into a hole before grounding into a game-ending double play, ensuring a 7 - 0 shut-out by Cy Albers and Casey Fien.
Albers spent his entire start defying the Royals to put wood on his junk, but the Royals could not. Only two Royals managed hits--Escobar and Hosmer each singling twice--and two managed a walk apiece--Hosmer and Butler. Albers only walked one batter (the last one he faced) while striking out just two. The Royals helped Albers by grounding out 15 times in his 8.1 IP (one ground-out was a double play) and flying out another eight times (two never reaching the outfield).
This was precisely the type of game that the Royals tortured Royals fans with since they became a laughingstock after the strike. The Twins plucked Cy Albers out of the Canadian-American Association--a league I have quite sincerely never heard of--following the 2010 season, and he toiled away in the minors until the age of 27 (he turns 28 on October 6th). His stuff screamed "completely pedestrian" but fooled the Royals badly all night. He never struck out more than 7.9 batters per nine innings at any stop in the minors, despite living in the strike zone his entire minor-league career (1.8 BB/9 over five seasons counting CAMA ball). In short, this was an embarrassment that would have fit in smack dab in the middle of a 12-game losing streak that the Royals had such a penchant for up until this year.