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Infante crowns O's with six RBIs in series win

Shields fires seven strong innings in rubber-game victory vs. O's

BALTIMORE -- Who's the Royals' RBI king?

There was no doubt about it on Sunday -- Omar Infante. He knocked in six runs as the Royals and James Shields trounced the Baltimore Orioles, 9-3, on a sunny 59-degree afternoon at Camden Yards.

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BALTIMORE -- Who's the Royals' RBI king?

There was no doubt about it on Sunday -- Omar Infante. He knocked in six runs as the Royals and James Shields trounced the Baltimore Orioles, 9-3, on a sunny 59-degree afternoon at Camden Yards.

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That gave Infante a team-high 17 RBIs. He used a home run, a double, a sacrifice fly and a groundout as his run-producing tools. His two-run homer off reliever Evan Meek capped his big day in the seventh inning.

"It was a great day for me," Infante said. "I'm happy because that doesn't happen many times for a player. It's a great day for me and for the team."

No, it doesn't happen very often -- just once before for Infante.

"I don't remember that," he said.

Oddly enough, the only other six-RBI day of Infante's 13-year career came against the Royals -- last Sept. 6 when he led the Tigers to a 16-2 victory in Kansas City. The losing pitcher? James Shields.

Infante was reminded of those facts. His face lit up.

"Oh! Yeah, yeah. Now I remember that day," he said.

So, quite naturally, Shields was asked if he knew when Infante last knocked in six runs.

"I have no clue. Probably against me," Shields said.

Bingo. Good guess. Actually only three of Infante's five hits and two of his six RBIs came against Shields that day.

Anyway, on this Sunday at Baltimore, Shields won his third game as the Royals ended their trip with a 3-4 record. He pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on just three hits, while striking out six and walking two.

The Royals won this series, two games to one, after losing three of four at Cleveland.

The Royals immediately took advantage of an Orioles miscue in the first inning.

Nori Aoki opened the game against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez with a long fly ball that sent Gold Glove Award winner Adam Jones racing into deep center field. He appeared about to catch the ball, but it fell off his glove and he was charged with an error that allowed Aokl to scamper to third base.

When Infante followed by bouncing out to shortstop, Aoki scored for a 1-0 lead.

Jarrod Dyson opened the third with a single, stole second, moved to third as Aoki tapped out, and scored on Infante's sacrifice fly.

Infante added his third and fourth RBIs in the fifth after the Royals caught another break. Alcides Escobar singled and was caught off base, and was in a rundown when fill-in first baseman Nick Markakis tossed the ball into center field. Escobar escaped back to first base.

Aoki singled to right and Infante pounded a double off the left-field wall to score both runners for a 4-0 lead.

"Today Aokl did a good job leading off -- and Alcides and Dyson," Infante said. "So, I saw a lot of guys on second base and third base. Today, I made a lot of good contact because I'm working hard in the cage. Because the last couple of days, I hit a lot of fly balls which I don't like. I like to hit line drives."

And that he did.

Infante's two-run homer, which followed Aoki's bunt single, came during the Royals' four-run seventh inning against Meek. All the runs came after two outs. Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler both singled and scored on Alex Gordon's double.

"The seventh inning for us was a huge inning because all that developed with two outs on Nori's bunt," manager Ned Yost said. "And the floodgates opened, and it broke the game open."

Meantime, Shields survived a couple of fielding mishaps. In the third inning, he lost a little popup into the sun by David Lough. It dropped for a single.

"That was probably not a good way to give up your first hit of the game, but as soon as he hit it, it was in the sun and it didn't come out," Shields said.

"I had no idea and I think for two pitches after that, my eyesight probably wasn't that good. I think I stared into the sun for five or 10 seconds solid. I wasn't just hoping it didn't hit me in the face or something. I had no clue where it was going."

In the fourth with one out and one on, Shields fielded a comebacker from Steve Clevenger and went for a double play, but his throw went into center field for an error. He recovered by getting J.J. Hardy to roll into a double play.

There was no escaping Nelson Cruz's bat in the sixth, however, Jemile Weeks led off with a single to short and Cruz followed by belting his seventh homer over the left-center-field wall. That gave Cruz 24 RBIs in 22 games.

"The only runs they got [off Shields] was Nellie hit a two-run homer on a changeup but, other than that, I thought he threw the ball great," Yost said.

Infante, however, stole the show and Shields, ever the appreciative pitcher, first mentioned his second baseman's defense.

"Omar was definitely the player of the game." Shields said, "and it all started with that play he made barehanded. Obviously, he had another play later in the game, I think it was the next inning. He had a great day today and definitely carried our team."

Along with his 17 RBIs, Infante has a .279 average with 24 hits, including two homers. He's drawn eight walks.

"He's going to be as consistent as it gets for a ballplayer," Shields said. "Facing him last year, you know that he was one of those guys consistent day-in and day-out, and it's definitely showing right now."

Yes, and Infante was pretty consistent that day last September against Shields and the Royals.

"Well, I'm glad he's on my team now," Shields said with a smile.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for

Kansas City Royals, Omar Infante, James Shields