Shields baffles Rox, notches 1,500th strikeout
Ace right-hander fans eight overall; Cain, Salvy launch home runs
KANSAS CITY -- James Shields paid the impressive batting credentials of the Colorado Rockies virtually no mind.
Shields stifled the Rockies for seven innings as the Royals notched a 5-1 Interleague victory on Tuesday night with 15,914 fans at Kauffman Stadium. Lorenzo Cain belted a two-run homer and Salvador Perez socked a solo shot, both into the left-field bullpen.
Shields was facing a team that, at that moment, was leading the universe, or at least Major League Baseball, in virtually every hitting department. You name it -- average, .301; runs, 230; homers, 57; on-base percentage, .349, and on and on.
"That's one of the best-hitting teams in the league right now, that's a tough ballclub over there," Shields said. "These guys take some really good at-bats, they take some close pitches and they work the count really good. They make pitchers work."
But Shields worked with efficiency; of his 98 pitches, 75 were strikes. He gave up just five singles, didn't walk anybody and struck out eight.
"He commanded the plate about as well as you can. He handcuffed us all night," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss.
Wade Davis pitched a perfect eighth inning and Aaron Crow pitched around a walk to close out the game. That gave Kansas City relievers a string of 17 scoreless innings dating to May 6.
"These guys in the bullpen have been doing a great job all season long," Shields said.
The sixth strikeout created Shields history as he made the especially dangerous (.395) Troy Tulowitzki the 1,500th strikeout victim of his career. When this information was flashed on the Crown Vision scoreboard, the fans broke into a loud ovation.
"I saw a lot of people in the crowd start to get crazy and I looked in the dugout, and the guys were saying, 'Get the ball,'" Perez said. "And I saw the scoreboard and I read he got his 1,500th strikeout."
So, Perez had Shields toss in the ball so he'd have a souvenir of the occasion.
Puzzled by the commotion, Shields paused and looked around. He finally located the scoreboard message, laughed and doffed his cap to the crowd in appreciation.
"I knew about 10 days ago that I was getting real close. To be honest with you, I didn't know how many strikeouts I had in the game. But that was a pretty special moment," Shields said. "The whole Kansas City organization does a good job when it comes to milestones. And the way the crowd responded, it was definitely very touching."
But that was just the second out of the inning and Shields then fanned Carlos Gonzalez for No. 1,501.
"I stepped behind the mound and enjoyed the moment real quick, then stepped back on the mound and took care of some business," Shields said.
There was no doubt what Royals manager Ned Yost thought of Shields' performance, his fifth win in his last six starts.
"I thought he was phenomenal. When we were going through our pre-series meeting and going over these numbers, they're a little bit intimidating," Yost said. "But he had everything going today -- really good changeup and breaking ball, spotted his fastball really well."
With a 4-1 lead, Yost decided against sending Shields back to the mound for the eighth inning.
"His last start, he threw 118 pitches and I didn't want to push him this start," Yost said. "He had done his job and, with the day off [Monday], I knew we had a healthy 'pen, ready to go and went straight to Wade."
Davis' inning included two strikeouts, giving him at least one "K" in his last 15 games. Crow, who also had two strikeouts, notched his 18th consecutive appearance without being charged with an earned run. That tied Louis Coleman for the club record.
The Royals' first run off Rockies starter Franklin Morales came after two outs in the second inning on Johnny Giavotella's single, Cain's walk and Alcides Escobar's RBI single.
"To take the lead like that with Shields on the mound is huge," Yost said.
The Rockies tied the game in the fourth with a run on singles by Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau, but the Royals came right back with Cain's two-run homer which followed Danny Valencia's single.
"It felt good off the bat," Cain said. "[Morales] tried to come in with the heater, and I let the head of the bat get out and put a good swing on it, and it got out for me."
It felt especially good because it was Cain's first home run in 206 at-bats, dating to last July 4 when he smashed a grand slam.
Perez hammered his solo shot off Morales in the fifth inning. It was his fourth this season, tying Mike Moustakas for the team lead.
"I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it," Perez said.
Cain admired the blast.
"Salvy sat on a breaking ball and put a good swing on it as well, drove it to left field, and it got out," Cain said. "It's a big park, but we got to find a way to get it over the fence somehow."
Hmmm, maybe the Royals are figuring something out.
This was the club's third multi-homer game of the season and the last two have come in the last two games.
"Our offense is starting to heat up," Yost said. "Everybody talked about our lack of power. We have power, it just hasn't manifested itself yet, but it's starting to now."
The Royals also drew a season-high seven walks, including two by Billy Butler, two by Alex Gordon and two by Cain.
And the club got back to .500 (19-19) for the first time since May 2, standing second in the American League Central but 5 1/2 games behind Detroit.