Shields went through his typical struggles in the first inning. Michael Bourn hit a leadoff single, then Shields hit Mike Aviles to put two runners on with nobody out. The starter retired the next two hitters before Michael Brantley hit a well-placed single, driving in both runners.
It's been pointed out by many that Shields has the nickname "Big Game James" because he is a Lakers fan, not necessarily his performance in actual big games. This naturally leads to a lot of snark, and people were understandably nervous after the first inning; his previous start still a fresh memory. Shields, however, settled down and turned in one of his best performances of the season.
Shields did not give up a hit from the second inning until the ninth inning. Only two runners reached base agaisnt him; Jason Kipnis reached on an error by the pitcher, while Carlos Santana drew a walk. Otherwise, Shields overmatched Indians hitters, keeping a quality offensive team in check.
His final stat line: 8+ innings pitched, two runs, four hits, one walk, seven strikeouts. Not too shabby.
The Royals offense scored all the runs they would need in the first inning. Alex Gordon led off the game with a solo homer, blasting the first pitch he saw from Scott Kazmir over the right field wall:
Emilio Bonifacio followed with a triple, scoring on the next play thanks to an Eric Hosmer single. Billy Butler and Salvador Perez recorder the first two outs of the inning, but Justin Maxwell and Lorenzo Cain hit back-to-back two-out singles, driving in Hosmer to give Kansas City a 3-0 lead.
After Shields surrendered two runs in the first, the score stayed 3-2 until the fifth. Bonifacio picked up his second hit of the day to lead off the fifth, advancing to second on an errant pickoff throw by Kazmir. Hosmer followed with a single, but Bonifacio could only advance to third. Butler then struck the ball well, but right at Lonnie Chisenhall for a double-play, but Bonifacio was able to score from third.
Kansas City picked up their next run in the seventh, aided by the Indians poor defense again. Gordon drew a one-out walk, then Bonifacio smacked his third hit, advancing Gordon to third. Rich Hill attempted to pickoff Bonifacio, but threw it well past Santana, causing Gordon to score.
Mike Moustakas drove in the team's final run. Cain drew a two-out walk in the eighth, then swiped second base. Moustakas followed with a single, pushing the lead to 6-2.
Shields came out to start the ninth, but surrendered singles to Kipnis and Santana to start the inning. That prompted Ned Yost to bring in Greg Holland, who calmly struck out the next three hitters, stranding two baserunners and ending the game.
The Royals have an off-day tomorrow before traveling to Detroit to face the AL Central leading Tigers. The team is now 2 1/2 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second AL Wild Card. This is getting real.