Shields Dazzles vs. Old Team; Royals Beat Rays 6-0
Just a reminder – James Shields is still really, really good. Just ask his former team.
Shields broke out of his extended rough stretch by dominating his former team, leading the Royals to a 6-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night. Kansas City’s ace fired seven shutout innings, surrendering just three hits while striking out 10 Rays. He retired 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced, with a hit-by-pitch being the only slip up.
Despite an inflated record due to excellent run support, Shields had been in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his career. In his eight previous starts, he compiled a whopping 5.66 ERA while allowing 67 hits. He averaged just four strikeouts per start while surrendering 10 homers. His ERA swelled from 2.67 to 3.93 in that time span.
On Monday night, though, he had everything working. Recently, it had seemed like Shields wasn’t commanding his changeup very well, leaving it up in the strike zone resulting in a high number of hits. Against the Rays, he threw 103 pitches, with 65 of them strikes. When he missed, it wasn’t by much. He kept the ball down and commanded his fastball magnificently, baffling the Rays in the process. As a result, he picked up his 48th career win at Tropicana Field, with the first 47 coming as a Ray.
Wade Davis, who played with Shields in Tampa until both were traded to Kansas City in 2012, worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts. It was Davis’ first appearance after being snubbed from the All Star team, and he certainly pitched like a reliever who belongs on the roster. Newly acquired lefty Scott Downs pitched the ninth to close out the team shutout.
Shields wasn’t the only starter in this game who was going up against his former team. Jake Odorizzi, yet another piece in the Shields-Wil Myers trade, appeared in two games for the Royals at the end of the 2012 season. Prior to being traded, he was expected to be in Kansas City’s 2013 rotation.
Following an eight-pitch first inning, Kansas City loaded the bases with one out against Odorizzi in the second, but were unable to capitalize. In the third, three consecutive singles by Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon plated the game’s first run. Omar Infante’s RBI groundout doubled the lead to 2-0.
Odorizzi settled down after that, only allowing three singles over the next three innings. His final line: six innings, two runs, two walks, eight strikeouts. He still has a ways to go, but he continues to make Rays fans optimistic about his future in their rotation.
Kansas City’s offense put the game out of reach in the later innings. Facing reliever Juan Oviedo, the Royals put up two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings. RBI’s by Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas, Hosmer and Gordon the Royals a 6-0 lead.
Gordon and Infante both drove in two runs, giving them each 44 on the season. The two are tied for the team lead in the category. Raul Ibanez was the only Royal who failed to reach base.
The Royals are now 13-4 since the beginning of 2012 against Tampa Bay. With two games remaining, they lead 2014’s season series 3-1. As for Shields personally, he improved to 2-0 in two career starts against the Rays. His only other start against them was April 30 of last year, in which he earned the win after throwing seven innings of two-run ball. In the combined 14 innings against Tampa Bay, Shields has struck out 19.
On the season, Kansas City improved to 46-42. First place Detroit was idle; the win closed the Tigers’ division lead to 3.5 games. Third-place Cleveland lost to the Yankees, dropping them to 6.5 games back. Meanwhile, the Rays lost for just the second time in their last 10 games, falling to 41-51 on the year.
Kansas City has also won five straight series-opening games. They look to take the series tomorrow when Jason Vargas (8-3, 3.32 ERA) will oppose Jeremy Hellickson, who will make his season debut for Tampa Bay after being activated from the DL on Monday.