James Shields steps into the clubhouse before putting on his warmup clothes, setting his phone in his locker. He converses with Billy Butler about the upcoming Chiefs game, both concluding it would be an unmitigated disaster for the red team, both pinkie swearing not to tell this to their Chiefs buddies.
Shields turns back to his locker, but now his phone is ringing. The ID reads 'unknown.' Curious, Shields answers it. It is a familiar voice on the other side of the line.
"Bruce? I have your number. Why are you calling me? Where are you calling me from?"
"It doesn't matter. I'm merely trying to help."
Shields quietly scoffs. He's aware of Chen's contributions to this team. Well, 'contributions.'
"James. Sit down. Close your eyes. Breathe in deep, and picture yourself as Zack Gr-"
"Are you trying to hypnotize me? ARE YOU TRYING TO HYPNOTIZE ME?" Shields fumes. "Don't you know who I am, Bruce? I'm no Jeremy Guthrie." Shields pauses for dramatic effect.
"I'm Big Game James."
The Kansas City Royals win tonight 3-0 against the Detroit Tigers, salvaging the series from a sweep. After a rain delay of 40 minutes, the game proceeded without interruption, though rain did come down at times.
In the fourth inning, the Royals inflicted their specialty upon the Detroit Tigers--that of the Singles Train. Josh Willingham worked a wonderful 11-pitch at-bat to get a single. Eric Hosmer followed with an infield single wherein he slid into first base. That can't be faster than running; I mean, you don't see Usain Bolt sliding into the finish line do you? Regardless, Salvador Perez singled after that. And then Lorenzo Cain singled. Four hits when separately result in 0 runs but together result in two. That, friends, is the power of sequencing.
In the eighth inning, the Royals proceeded to fire up the Singles Train again. Alex Gordon worked his fifth walk of the series; clearly the Tigers did not want to challenge the Royals' best hitter. However, immediately following him, Willingham singled. Willingham has a 138 wRC+ with the Royals this year. Raul Ibanez is still put in as DH. Ahem, sorry. Eric Hosmer followed with a bunt--a bunt!--to get on base, something he should probably do more of. By that point the Royals had nine hits, nine of which were singles.
Of course, with the bases loaded and no outs, the Royals didn't score. In a continued showing of surprisingly poor team baserunning, Alex Gordon was caught off third base on a Perez liner to the pitcher, making a double play. Moustakas struck out, of course. Derp herpy derp. #BeRoyak
But the story isn't really about the horrific offense devoid of power, plate discipline, or anything resembling something that moves bodies around the diamond to increase a thing called the 'score.' That's everyday.
James Shields is not everyday. And he is a joy to watch.
After yesterday's brutal and depressingly predictable loss, multiple people pointed out on my Twitter feed that today's game was the type of game for which Dayton Moore acquired James Shields. I rolled my eyes.
Shields proved that, maybe, just maybe, there is something to be said about the 'Ace veteran' mentality. In the biggest game of the season, in a season in which the Royals have coughed away games at a staggering pace when the pressure rose, Shields absolutely nailed it. Going seven innings, he allowed three baserunners. Three. Only in the seventh did Shields allow more than one baserunner, and he got out of the jam cleanly. His final line was 7 IP, 2 hits (both singles), 1 walk, 8 strikeouts, no runs. His ERA is now 3.13.
Other things did happen. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis dominated, as usual, and the Royals even scored an insurance run on a Cain triple and an Alcides Escobar sac fly.
The Royals improve to 80-64, pulling to one game ahead of the Tigers, and have a half-game lead assuming the extra-innings game against Cleveland is a loss. Kansas City controls its own destiny from here on out.
Yeah, there are a lot of problems with this team. They are a putrid 5-11 against Detroit. They have very little depth outside of the outfield. Their bats don't just go cold at will--they freeze--and the Royals have averaged a mere 2.53 runs/game in their last 17 contests. Despite that, they're on pace for their best season in the history of whatever.
Up next is the last homestand of the year, where they face very bad teams in Boston and the Chicago White Sox before facing Detroit for the last time in a crucial 3-game set that could be a huge factor in the AL Central race.
Hold on to your butts.