KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The one subject you don’t want to bring up to Royals right-hander James Shields anymore is the one about run support.
In his last three starts, Shields has lost 3-1, 2-1 and 3-2, and in the start before that he pitched eight shutout innings only to watch the Royals lose 2-1 in extra innings.
And then there was that 1-0 loss on Opening Day to the White Sox. Oh, and the 3-2 loss to Toronto. And there was … well, you get the picture.
The Royals have continually wasted outstanding starts from Shields, who has given them nine quality starts in 11 tries. His reward? He is only 2-6 despite a shiny 2.96 ERA.
Loss No. 6 for Shields, however, won’t be remembered as another offensive no-show by his teammates. The Royals actually mustered up three runs of support for him, but it just so happened that Shields turned in his worst performance as a Royal and the Cardinals prevailed 6-3 Monday before a Cardinal-heavy crowd of 34,746 at Kauffman Stadium.
So when the question of run support was broached after the game, Shields snapped, “I don’t worry about my run support. I worry about my pitching.”
Shields then turned away. Next question.
Shields, though, did acknowledge that his offensive mates had a better day than normal with him on the mound.
“Guys swung it well today,” he said. “They got a lot of singles. Miggy (Miguel Tejada) laid down a nice bunt. And guys swung it well overall.
“But I didn’t do my job today and the result was another ‘L.'”
A rare day all around. Shields gave up a season-high six runs through six innings, and a season-high five walks. He also struck out a season-low four batters.
“I wasn’t commanding the fastball today,” he said. “When you don’t do that, you get behind in the count. And you start walking guys. Definitely wasn’t the brightest game in the world for me. I didn’t pitch very well.”
And that’s what is adding to the frustration. The Royals’ streak busters – Shields, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler – are all showing signs of fatigue from the recent nosedive, which now has reached six straight defeats, 10 of 11 and 17 of 21.
Butler was 0 for 12 before singling once Sunday and twice Monday, and he hasn’t homered in two weeks. Gordon was 2 for his last 15 before Monday, and he hasn’t homered since May 9.
And now Shields, the shutdown ace whom the Royals were convinced would prevent any long losing streak from happening, turned in his shakiest start of the season.
“He didn’t have his command but he sure kept battling,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That’s what James does. He battles.”
True, and even the same can be said for the Royals’ run-starved, dink-and-dunk offense which netted 12 singles and one bloop double, and yet managed only three runs.
“We just keep waiting for the big hit,” Yost said. “We had chances all day but couldn’t really push them over the edge with that one big hit.”
The big hit? Get this: The Royals have just two homers as a team since they left Anaheim, Calif., two weeks ago – and both were by Miguel Tejada, who started again Monday in place of the slumping Mike Moustakas at third base.
Tejada even laid down a picture perfect bunt for a single in the eighth in an effort to get the Royals going. But, alas, he was doubled up moments later when Jeff Francoeur popped out to short center field.
Shields, though, contends he’s seeing the proper effort from his teammates.
“I think we’re grinding,” he said, somewhat defiantly. “I think we have great effort here and it shows on the field. I don’t think the results are there. So what? All you can do is keep grinding and keep your effort.
“Look, you can put that game on me today. I didn’t do my job.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org