CHICAGO — With just five wins in late July, the temptation is to think that James Shields is having an off year.
Not true, said Kansas City manager Ned Yost.
Shields tossed seven shutout innings on Friday night to lead the Royals to a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, and Yost believes that performance was right in line with the way the veteran right-hander has pitched this season.
“Forget the record,” Yost said. “The record doesn’t tell a quarter of the story of the way he’s pitched all year. He’s been really, really good. He’s an innings eater (and) he keeps us in the game every time. We’ve just struggled to score runs for him.
“But tonight was good that he got a ‘W.’ He pitched great.”
Shields (5-7) allowed eight hits and walked two but faced only one real scoring threat, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning. He lowered his ERA to 3.09 and has been especially effective on the road, where he improved to 4-3 with a 2.50 ERA in 12 starts.
Afterward, Shields preferred to talk about the team. The Royals (49-51) have won four straight and six of eight since the All-Star break.
“I think we’re playing some decent baseball right now,” Shields said. “I think there’s always room to improve, but right now we’re on a little bit of a roll and it’s nice. I think we’re playing on all cylinders right now. Our defense has been playing amazing. Obviously, Lorenzo Cain made a couple of nice catches tonight and the pitchers are making pitches when they need to.”
Chicago starter Jose Quintana (5-3) also pitched well but allowed two runs on six hits in seven innings to pick up the loss.
“He’s a good pitcher and it’s just one of those things where he doesn’t get really what he deserves,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He was sharp.”
Royals right-fielder David Lough led off the top of the third inning with a home run into the right-field bullpen to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. That’s where the score stayed until the seventh, when the Royals stretched the lead to 2-0 on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Tejada that scored Salvador Perez, who led off the inning with a double.
The White Sox’s best threat against Shields came in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with two outs. But catcher Josh Phegley grounded into a fielder’s choice to third base on the first pitch to end the inning.
Shields showed his veteran savvy in working out of the jam. With Gordon Beckham at the plate with runners on second and third with two outs, Shields fed the White Sox second baseman a steady diet of breaking balls. Beckham was 0 for 2 to that point, but both outs were drives to deep center.
“Beckham’s a pretty good hitter and he’s got pretty good numbers against me,” Shields said. “He hit the ball hard twice earlier in the game and I had the catcher right behind him. I felt like there was a base open and I’m not going to give him too much to hit in that situation.”
Beckham walked to load the bases, but Shields got Phegley to ground out softly on a slider.
The Sox finally got on the board in the eighth on a solo homer by Conor Gillaspie, but the Royals added three insurance runs in the ninth on run-scoring hits by Cain and Mike Moustakas, and a sacrifice fly by Lough.
NOTES: White Sox RHP Jesse Crain, who has been on the disabled list since July 3 with a right shoulder strain, played catch on Thursday and said afterward, “It definitely wasn’t better today.” Crain, who has a 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances this season, said he will take four or five days off before throwing again next week. … Although he’s not ready to commit to it long-term, Royals manager Ned Yost said he will keep first baseman Eric Hosmer batting second for now. “Traditionally, a situational guy hits second,” Yost said. The slugging Hosmer was hitting .321 with a .519 slugging percentage in July before Friday. … Beckham was back in the lineup after missing five games with a strained left wrist, the same wrist he had surgery on earlier this season. “There’s some soreness but no pain, so it’s go time,” he said. … Royals RHP Wade Davis (4-9) faces LHP Chris Sale (6-9) Saturday night in the second game of the series.