James Shields Looks Awesome in 4-2 Victory over A’s

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Any time James Shields is on the bump for a rubber match, Royals fans should feel confident about their team’s chances. In 10 series-deciding games that Shields has started in a Royals uniform, Kansas City came into Sunday with a whopping 9-1 record. Fortunately for the Royals, Shields would continue his trend to lead his team to a 4-2 win, clinching a victorious series against the best team in baseball.

Pitching in front of dozens of family and friends, James Shields dominated the highest scoring offense in baseball. He flirted with perfection, retiring the first 15 A’s hitters before Josh Reddick led off the sixth inning with a home run. By the time his offense finally rewarded him with decent run support, Shields had stifled the A’s over eight splendid innings.

About that run support – it was nonexistent through the first four innings, as Scott Kazmir matched Shields in what appeared to be yet another Royals/A’s pitching duel. The Royals were getting hits (five of them in the first four frames), but double plays constantly killed rallies.

In the fifth, everything changed. Christian Colon led off with a double to deep right, the first extra base hit of the game. Following a strikeout, Alcides Escobar walked, and that immediately gave way to a trio of consecutive base hits. Nori Aoki doubled home the game’s first run, and Omar Infante followed with a huge double down the left field line. The knock scored both Escobar and Aoki, pushing the lead to 3-0 – all the Royals would need with Shields on his game. Perez added an insurance run by singling home Infante.

While the Royals eventually got to Kazmir, the A’s had no such luck with Shields, who cruised through the first five innings without yielding a baserunner. Reddick’s homer in the sixth didn’t phase him; by the time he retired the A’s in order in the seventh, it appeared that he was in line to try for his first complete game of the season. After Reddick homered again in the eighth, Wade Davis began warming in the bullpen, but Shields managed to hold off Oakland. His final line: eight innings, two runs, two strikeouts, zero walks. After needing 124 pitches to get through six innings last Tuesday, he required just 102 for eight innings on Sunday – his fewest in a game since June 3.

It was the first time that Shields went eight innings since April 17. A month ago, fans were concerned about his health, claiming he was “hurt” and “done.” His pitch counts were regularly being taxed, and his command of his changeup was a disaster. Over his last six starts, Shields has surrendered just nine earned runs over a total of 40.2 innings. That amounts to an ERA of 2.01, and a K/BB ratio of 35/7. His superb changeup command was key in keeping the A’s off balance all afternoon. Of the 24 outs he recorded, 10 of them came via popup.

Greg Holland worked an uneventful ninth inning to nail down the series win, and collected his 31st save of the season. Aided by the Mariners losing to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, Holland once again surpassed Seattle’s Fernando Rodney for the most saves in the American League.

Shields (10-6) earned his first win since July 7 in Tampa. It marked the eighth consecutive season that James surpassed the double-digit win mark. Kazmir (12-4) failed in his attempt to tie Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello atop the AL wins leaderboard with 13.

When the Royals need James Shields most, he steps up. Nobody mocked his “Big Game” nickname on Sunday. It was the first time that Oakland lost a series at home since Seattle took three of four from them way back from May 5-7. Entering the weekend, Kansas City was preparing to face three of the top six ERA leaders in the league. They walked away with two of three, making a statement to the rest of the league that they’re not going away any time soon.

Up next: Kansas City continues their West-coast road trip on Tuesday when they begin a three-game series with the 49-63 Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this year, and they will be without their slugger Paul Goldschmidt, who’s season appears to be over after suffering a fractured hand on Friday night. Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.42 ERA) will take the ball against Wade Miley (7-7, 4.14).

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Author: Ryan Landreth

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