Jul 7, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) reacts on the mound during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

James Shields finally has Big Game in Win over Tampa

Kansas City ace James Shields came to Tampa Bay riding two months of mediocre performances. The return to the city where he earned the nickname “Big Game James” seemed to remind him of who he was, as Shields dominated the Rays for 7 shutout innings and 10 strikeouts in Kansas City’s 6-0 win at Tropicana Field Monday night.

Royals manager Ned Yost also reshuffled the lineup Monday, moving powerlesss cleanup hitter Billy Butler to no. 7, and promoting Salvador Perez to no. 3 and Alex Gordon to no. 4. The new lineup scratched out 2 runs against former Royal Jake Odorizzi, who was part of the blockbuster trade that brought Wade Davis and Shields to Kansas City, and then broke through for 4 runs against reliever Juan Oviedo.

The Royals improve to 46-42 on the season with Monday’s win. Kansas City gained a half-game on idle Detroit to pull within 3.5 games of first place in the American League Central.

On the Mound

What can I say? The trip to his old stomping grounds seemed to remind James Shields of his old self. Shields turned in a vintage performance on Monday, going 7.0 innings while allowing 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs along with 10 strikeouts while earning his 9th win of the season (9-4).

Let’s hope the transformation sticks for the rest of the season.

Wade Davis entered in the 8th to pitch a clean inning with 2 strikeouts.

New mop up man Scott Downs finished the 9th with a scoreless inning.

At the Plate

The Royals actually did a good job getting 2 runs off Jake Odorizzi, who was almost as impressive as Shields with 8 strikeouts through 6 innings. The Royals had their way with Juan Oviedo in the 8th and 9th innings to put the game out of reach.

Overall, they smacked 14 hits, drew 2 walks, and put up 6 runs—despite only 3 extra-base hits (all doubles).

Alex Gordon and Omar Infante put up identical lines from the no.4 and no.5 slots, going 3-5, with 2 singles, a double, 1 run scored, and 2 RBI’s apiece. Gordon and Infante opened the 8th inning with back-to-back doubles in the 8th off Oviedo to start the rout.

Eric Hosmer chipped in by going 2-5, with a single, double, 2 runs scored, and 1 RBI.

Lorenzo Cain continued to play the leadoff role to perfection, going 2-5 with 2 singles, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored. Cain has done the job since replacing Nori Aoki at the top of the lineup.

This and That

Monday’s game featured 3 of the main pieces in the James Shields/Wil Myers blockbuster: Shields, Wade Davis, and Jake Odorizzi—all of whom pitched well against their former teams.

Billy Butler did not appear at all happy to be demoted to the no. 7 spot, but the position is a better fit for his 2 home runs and .342 slugging percentage. Maybe the move will be the wake up call that brings his bat back to life. Coming up on his free-agent year (with the Royals holding a $12 million team option for 2015), Butler needs a monster 2nd half if he wants to stay in Kansas City.

Rays RF Kevin Kiermaier made Royals fans appreciate what we have in slick-fielding corner outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain (when Jarrod Dyson plays CF). Kiermaier over-ran Omar Infante‘s double to shallow right in the 8th inning that wandered into the Rays bullpen before he tracked down the ball. Infante jogged into 3rd on the error. Mike Moustakas followed with a deep fly down the right field line, causing Kiermaier to launch a wild throw that didn’t come anywhere close to home plate. Infante tagged and scored easily on the play.

Yeah. The grass is certainly not greener on the Tampa side.

KC Kingdom Player of the Game

James Shields is the obvious choice with 7 shutout innings and 10 srrikeouts. Let’s hope this game can spur a much-needed turnaround for Shields.

The Rays

Jake Odorizzi was very good for Tampa Monday night. He went 6 innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 earned runs with 8 strikeouts. He was almost as overpowering as Shields, whiffing Royals hitters with his high fastball.

Ben Zobrist was the only Ray to get 2 hits on the day (out of his team’s 5), but he only hit 2 harmless singles. Kevin Kiermaier had the only extra-base hit for Tampa with a double off Shields.

Up Next

The Royals and Rays continue their series in Tampa Bay. Kansas City will send Jason Vargas (8-3, 3.32 ERA) to the mound against Jeremy Hellickson (0-0) for the Rays. Hellickson is making his first appearance of the season on Tuesday. Game time is 6:10 CST at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.

Box

Royals Batting AB R H RBI BB SO PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Lorenzo Cain CF-RF 5 1 2 0 0 0 5 .311 .346 .433 .779
Eric Hosmer 1B 5 2 2 1 0 1 5 .256 .300 .353 .653
Salvador Perez C 5 1 1 0 0 1 5 .284 .330 .439 .769
Alex Gordon LF 5 1 3 2 0 1 5 .269 .350 .428 .778
Omar Infante 2B 5 1 3 2 0 1 5 .262 .305 .376 .682
Mike Moustakas 3B 3 0 0 1 1 1 5 .192 .258 .379 .638
Billy Butler DH 4 0 1 0 1 1 5 .266 .321 .342 .663
Raul Ibanez RF 3 0 0 0 0 2 3 .157 .249 .270 .519
   Jarrod Dyson CF 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 .298 .354 .351 .705
Alcides Escobar SS 4 0 1 0 0 1 4 .290 .329 .400 .729
Team Totals 40 6 14 6 2 9 43 .350 .372 .425 .797

2B: A Gordon (24, off J Oviedo); O Infante (9, off J Oviedo); E Hosmer (23, off J Oviedo).
SF: M Moustakas (3, off J Oviedo).
TB: O Infante 4; A Gordon 4; E Hosmer 3; L Cain 2; B Butler; S Perez; J Dyson; A Escobar.
RBI: A Gordon 2 (44); O Infante 2 (44); M Moustakas (36); E Hosmer (38).
Team LOB: 10.
With RISP: 4 for 13.
Fielding
DP: 1. S Perez-A Escobar.
Baserunning
SB: L Cain 2 (10, 2nd base off J Oviedo/R Hanigan, 2nd base off K Yates/R Hanigan).

Rays Batting AB R H RBI BB SO PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Desmond Jennings CF 4 0 0 0 0 2 4 .248 .336 .397 .733
Ben Zobrist SS 3 0 2 0 1 0 4 .268 .350 .411 .760
Matthew Joyce LF 3 0 0 0 0 3 3 .268 .352 .428 .780
   Brandon Guyer PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .248 .299 .342 .641
Evan Longoria 3B 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 .263 .340 .398 .738
James Loney DH 4 0 1 0 0 0 4 .278 .330 .377 .707
Logan Forsythe 2B 3 0 0 0 0 3 3 .243 .295 .345 .640
Sean Rodriguez 1B 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 .241 .285 .504 .788
Ryan Hanigan C 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 .216 .310 .333 .643
Kevin Kiermaier RF 3 0 1 0 0 1 3 .286 .322 .557 .879
Team Totals 30 0 4 0 1 13 32 .133 .188 .167 .354

2B: K Kiermaier (9, off J Shields).
HBP: E Longoria (6, by J Shields).
TB: K Kiermaier 2; B Zobrist 2; J Loney.
Team LOB: 5.
With RISP: 0 for 3.
Fielding
E: K Kiermaier (2).
Baserunning
CS: B Zobrist (3, 2nd base by J Shields/S Perez).

Royals Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA Pit Str
James Shields, W (9-4) 7 3 0 0 1 10 0 3.71 103 64
Wade Davis 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1.19 10 7
Scott Downs 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 5.61 16 9
Team Totals 9 4 0 0 1 13 0 0.00 129 80
Rays Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA Pit Str
Jake Odorizzi, L (4-8) 6 6 2 2 2 8 0 4.10 101 64
Kirby Yates 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 2.03 18 11
Juan Carlos Oviedo 2 7 4 4 0 0 0 3.48 33 27
Team Totals 9 14 6 6 2 9 0 6.00 152 102

Balks: None.
WP: None.
HBP: J Shields (8; E Longoria).
IBB: None.
Pickoffs: None.

Tags: Alex Gordon Featured Jake Odorizzi James Shields Kansas City Royals Omar Infante Popular Wade Davis