Five things you need to know about Royals loss to Yankees

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The 5 things you need to know about the Royals’ 3-2 loss to the Yankees on Saturday, their fifth loss in six games.

1. Big Game James:
Royals right-hander James Shields did his part to try to snap the Royals’ recent slide, as the Royals had been hoping he would when they acquired him in the blockbuster trade last December.

Shields was billed as a stopper, and so far he has lived up to that expectation with the Royals.

Shields delivered his seventh quality start of the season in eight tries, holding the Yankees to two earned runs through eight innings. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five.

Shields’ only flaw Saturday was the two-run bomb on a 3-1 pitch he served up to Vernon Wells, who belted a fastball into the left-field bullpen.

But the pitch Shields really wanted back was the 1-2 changeup to light-hitting Yankees catcher Chris  Stewart a few batters before Wells came up. That changeup hit Stewart, not exactly what Shields had in mind. Shields then scored ahead of Wells.

“Just inexcusable,” Shields said. “It was a changeup that got away. But you have the No. 9 hitter up there with the leadoff guy up after that and then (Robinson) Cano, the last thing you can afford to do is put the No. 9 guy.

“That’s totally unacceptable on my part.”

But Shields otherwise was dominant, yet suffered his third loss against two wins as the Royals’ offense again offered him little support.

The Royals continue to waste great Shields outings, but manager Ned Yost said that won’t affect a guy like Shields.

“He’s a pro’s pro,” Yost said. “He can handle it.”

Shields said he only has one thought about the lack of offensive support.

“I need to pitch better,” he said.

2. Moose near miss and near miss: Royals third basemen Mike Moustakas not once, but twice nearly tied the game in the final at bat in the ninth against Yankees closer Mariano  Rivera.

After Sal Perez doubled with two out, Moustakas jumped on a 3-1 pitch from Rivera and jolted it into the right-field corner, hooking near the foul pole. The ball hooked into the wall to the right and just short of the foul pole by about three feet.

Then after three foul balls, Moustakas sent a drive into left-center field that at first glance appeared to perhaps be a game-tying double.

But Yankees left fielder Vernon Wells chased it down for the final out.

“Hey, you’re up against the best closer who ever played the game,” Moustakas said. “I tried to get some good swings. I wound up with a line drive to left. That’s the way it goes.”

Moose said he first thought his hooking foul to right might at least tie the game.

“It was straight almost the whole way,” he said, “and then right  at the end it hooked a little more.”

3. Tough week:  The Royals now have lost five of six, but Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said no one in the clubhouse is getting down.

“It’s just a little thing here and there,” Hosmer said. “We’ve hit some balls hard right at people. We had Moose’s ball hook a little foul. Just little things like that and sometimes the breaks don’t go your way.

“We’ll be fine. It’s a long season. We’re playing good  ball, we’re near the top of the division and we’ll have our day soon. This is a good team.”

4. Billy Ball:
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler had been locked into an uncharacteristic 3-for-28 slide that had dropped his average to an un-Billy-like .234.

But Butler took out some anger on an Andy Pettitte fastball in the fourth inning, barbecuing it 414 feet to left-center for his fourth homer of the year. It was also his 500th career RBI.

Butler, though, wasn’t quite ready to declare himself healed from his recent slump.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “I’m just off. My timing is off, not getting my front foot down when I need to. It’s just one of those things you go through.

“I know that where I hit, the team needs production.  I know if I get going, I can get the team going (offensively). Hopefully it comes around soon.”

5. Pick up your ‘mates:
Shields wasn’t about to throw Moustakas under the bus for a critical error in the third inning that allowed the Yankees to score their first run. With Chris Nelson on second and two out, Shields got Robinson Cano to hit a grounder to third. Moustakas fielded it cleanly, but then threw wildly to first, allowing Nelson to score.

Shields has always taken pride in picking up his defense behind him when an error is made, and did so again Saturday. Rather than let the inning escalate, Shields got Vernon Wells to fly out on the very next pitch.

“Physical errors in this game are going to happen,” Shields said. “What you can’t do is let anyone get down mentally after that. You can control mental errors.
“It was an error….so what? I got the next guy out and in the end, it just cost me one more pitch.”