They call him “Big Game James” for a reason. On Wednesday, he proved to everyone what that reason is as he dominated the Indians lineup and helped guide the Royals to a 6-2 win over the Indians. What was already a tight race for the final wild card spot got even closer as a result. The Indians are now 1.5 games back of the Rays with the Royals close behind at only 2 games behind.
James Shields threw eight-plus innings and allowed only two runs on four hits while walking only one. He struck out seven Indians on the day and continually flummoxed a lineup that was looking to bounce back after a weak performance the night before against Jeremy Guthrie. The solid start was further proof for why the Royals felt the move to trade for Shields and give up on a fiture that included Wil Myers was the thing to do.
Meanwhile, things couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for Scott Kazmir. On the very first pitch of the game, Alex Gordon lined a 90-mph fastball over the 375 ft. sign in right center to put the Royals up 1-0. The home run was Gordon’s 19th of the season and his fourth in his last ten games. Safe to say, he is getting hot at the right time for the Royals.
They Royals weren’t satisfied with simply owning a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Eric Hosmer singled home Emilio Bonifacio to make it 2-0. Four batters later, Lorenzo Cain added to the Kansas City run total with an RBI single to center to score Hosmer and put the Royals up 3-0. Kazmir would eventually settle down and work his way out of the inning, but the damage had been done.
The Indians would get a portion of those runs back in the bottom of the first inning off of Shields. With runners at second and third, Michael Brantley delivered yet another two out RBI hit. His single to center scored Michael Bourn and Mike Aviles and pulled the Indians to within one run at 3-2. It was all the offense they would be able to put together as Shields calmed down and took control from that point forward.
The Royals would add more runs as the game wore on. By the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around, they had built a 6-2 lead with Shields back out on the mound looking to pick up the complete game victory. That apparently wasn’t meant to be. Shields allowed the first two batters to reach base which led Ned Yost to call upon closer Greg Holland. Holland wouldn’t mess around. Looking to end things and give the Royals the series victory, he proceeded to strike out the next three batters in order to end the game.
Despite dropping two of three to the Royals, all is not lost for the Indians. They still possess the easiest closing schedule out of any contender and are within striking range of the Rays for the final wild card spot. They will look to get back on the winning track as they head to Chicago to take on the feeble White Sox for a four game set spanning the weekend.
The Good: Not much. Losing two of three to the Royals is not what the Indians needed. Luckily, the Rays have struggled with the Red Sox this week. The end result is that the Indians didn’t lose any ground. However, the race is closer than it has been at any other point this season.
The Bad: The Indians did nothing offensively. Yes, most of the credit goes to Shields, who is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, but the Indians have to figure out a way to get to him. Four hits and a walk isn’t going to get the job done.