Shields Dazzles Again, Leads Royals to 3-0 Win in Detroit
“If you’re going to win consistently in the major leagues, you’re going to need a rotation that gives you innings, competes, and helps you win. When you can acquire a pitcher like James Shields, we have to do it, because that’s what we’ve committed to our team.”
Those were the words spoken by Royals general manager Dayton Moore during a press conference on December 10, 2012, one day after finalizing a controversial blockbuster trade that brought James Shields to Kansas City.
The outrage from fans at Moore was unprecedented.
“James Shields isn’t even an ace,” some fans complained. Others pointed out that there were only two years remaining on Shields’ contract, and a small-market team like the Royals had little chance of resigning him in 2015 free agency.
In 2013, Shields led the American League in innings pitched. Still, the Royals missed the playoffs for the 27th consecutive year. By the 2014 All-Star Break, Shields was laboring through one of the worst stretches of his career, and Kansas City was 7.5 games out of first place. Fans demanded that Moore trade Shields at once, claiming that the team was too far out of contention. When the trade deadline passed and Shields was still a Royal, fans were outraged. According to some, Shields was old, washed up, and/or injured.
On Wednesday night, Shields once again reminded the entire organization and fanbase why they gave up so much for a player of his caliber.
James Shields dazzled all evening, rolling through seven stellar innings to lead the Royals over the Detroit Tigers, re-grabbing sole possession of first place in the process. Combined with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, Kansas City shut out Detroit to salvage the last game of a three-game series.
On a rainy night that saw the start of the game delayed for 42 minutes, Shields shut down Detroit in near-flawless fashion. After Ian Kinsler opened the game with a single, Shields erased him on a pickoff and retired the next 18 Tigers. It wasn’t until Torii Hunter’s one out single in the seventh inning that Detroit would get another baserunner, and it was then when the biggest stretch of the game began to unfold.
After the single, Shields began to struggle with the wet mound. He slipped on consecutive balls, losing his control enough to walk Miguel Cabrera to put two on with one out. The Royals’ ace would then buckle down to retire Victor Martinez on a flyout and strike out J.D. Martinez for the third time on the evening – this time with a devastating slider down to escape the jam.
After recording the strikeout, Shields let out a lion-like roar as the Detroit crowd deafened. His final pitch was, perhaps, the biggest moment in the Royals’ season thus far. His final line: seven innings, two hits, one walk, eight strikeouts. He needed 98 pitches.
As for the offense, the Royals struggled to get anything across against Tigers starter Rick Porcello. They blew yet another runner on third/one out situation when Nori Aoki rolled into a fielder’s choice, and Alcides Escobar was thrown out at home. In the fourth inning, Kansas City would finally plate a run when Josh Willingham, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez strung together a trio of singles. After a Mike Moustakas flyout, Lorenzo Cain drove in a second run on an RBI single back up the middle.
The offense continued to have hiccups, mainly in the eighth inning. Kansas City loaded the bases with zero outs, but Perez lined into a double play and Moustakas struck out. In the ninth frame, yet another opportunity emerged when Cain led off with a triple. This time, the Royals would come through, as Escobar lifted a sacrifice fly off of Joakim Soria to give Kansas City a 3-0 lead.
Herrera and Davis retired all six Tigers they faced to close out the game. Davis earned his third save, lowering his ERA to a miniscule 0.70 in the process. Closer Greg Holland was held out of yet another game, but Ned Yost said afterwards that he expects the All-Star to be available tomorrow.
Entering tonight, Porcello was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two games against Kansas City this season. He took the loss, dropping him to 15-11.
Following a dismal stretch earlier in the summer, Shields has responded brilliantly with one of the best runs of his career. Here’s how the numbers stack up in the two stretches:
May 24 – July 1 (8 starts)
49.1 innings, 5.66 ERA, 67 hits, 33 strikeouts, 13 BB, 10 home runs.
.324/.363/.585 opponents line
July 7 – September 10 (13 starts)
90.2 innings, 2.10 ERA, 74 hits, 72 strikeouts, 15 BB, 6 home runs.
.223/.265/.342 opponents line
Kansas City is 35-22 since July 7. They now sit one game in front of the Tigers in the AL Central.
Up next: the Royals return to Kansas City for their final homestand of the year on Thursday, beginning with a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox. Liam Hendricks (1-1, 4.81 ERA) will start for the injured Danny Duffy against Clay Buchholz (7-8, 5.29). Detroit has tomorrow off and will head to Cleveland for a three-game set with the Indians beginning on Friday.
Just 17 non-suspended games remain for the Kansas City Royals. Their magic number sits at 17 as well. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, it’s safe to say that this magical run would not be happening had Dayton Moore either not acquired or gotten rid of James Shields. The ace of the staff is attempting to lead Kansas City to their first playoff appearance since 1985.