Shields undone by defense as Royals fall to Twins 7-1
MINNEAPOLIS — James Shields and the Royals were undone by sloppy defense.
Joe Mauer hit his first home run of the season, Brian Dozier connected for his fourth and Ricky Nolasco earned his initial win with the Minnesota Twins in a 7-1 victory Saturday over Kansas City.
After allowing four runs in his first two starts, Shields gave up seven runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings. Six unearned runs came in the second courtesy of two Royals errors — one by Shields.
"You take away the second inning, we’re right in that ballgame," manager Ned Yost said.
Shields (0-2) put Kansas City in an early hole again, yielding six hits and walking three while striking out five. The Royals had seven quality starts in their first eight games, but Shields’ disappointing outing followed a 10-1 loss Friday night when Bruce Chen lasted only 3 2/3 innings.
The Twins entered with the second-most runs in the American League and continued to build on that against Shields. The Royals, with the lowest run output in the AL, failed to muster much off Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco (1-1).
Nolasco showed why the Twins signed him to a $49 million, four-year contract to steady their rotation. The right-hander allowed five hits, struck out four and gave up one run in eight innings, the longest start by a Minnesota pitcher this season.
"We’re just not hitting the ball," Yost said. "We’ve been through this before, we know we’ll get out of it. You can come up with a bunch of different excuses why. We’re just not getting the job done."
Dozier sent Shields’ fourth pitch into the left field stands. Dozier has been a power source in the leadoff spot, and Minnesota has received big production from a middle of the order that includes Trevor Plouffe, Chris Colabello and Jason Kubel.
None of the Twins’ runs in the second were earned because Shields misplayed a sacrifice bunt by Kurt Suzuki, with the ball slipping out of his hand for an error as the pitcher tried to throw to third base. Shields then walked No. 8 hitter Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded.
"If I make that play on the bunt, it’s a whole other ballgame," Shields said. "Tough one. Just trying to throw it to third and the ball popped out of my glove."
Later, third baseman Mike Moustakas couldn’t handle a hard-hit grounder by Dozier that deflected into left field for an error, allowing two runs to score.
A day after getting his first RBI of the year, Mauer followed Moustakas’ error with a three-run homer, his first since Aug. 16 last season.
"Even though it was a 3-2 count, I was trying to go changeup down and away," Shields said. "He’s a pretty good hitter. He’s going to hit that every time."
Shields bounced back after throwing 64 pitches in the first two innings and retired 11 of his next 13 batters before he was relieved by left-hander Danny Duffy in the sixth. Duffy struck out three and didn’t allow a hit in 2 1/3 innings.
Lorenzo Cain singled in the fifth to drive in Alex Gordon for the Royals’ lone run.
NOTES: Shields had won nine straight decisions on the road dating to a June 28 win at Target Field. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire missed his second consecutive game to attend the funeral for Michael Hirschbeck in Ohio. Hirschbeck, the son of umpire John Hirschbeck, died Tuesday at age 27. Terry Steinbach filled in for Gardenhire, who is expected back for Sunday’s game. … Kansas City recalled Duffy from Triple-A Omaha to pitch out of the bullpen. Duffy, who was in the mix for a rotation spot this spring, is the only healthy left-hander in the bullpen. The Royals optioned 2B Johnny Giavotella to Omaha. … LHP Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.20 ERA) pitches Sunday against Minnesota RHP Kevin Correia (0-1, 6.17).