Royals’ Shields: ‘I’m not trying to hit Abreu there’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you’re thinking that Royals starter James Shields plunked Jose Abreu on purpose in the sixth inning, well, he states adamantly that it wasn’t the case.
Shields drilled Abreu with two outs and no one on in the White Sox sixth. That came after Abreu had stepped on Eric Hosmer’s ankle while crossing first base on a close play in the fourth inning.
Hosmer hobbled and immediately went down in pain, but stayed in the ballgame.
"I mean, I’m not trying to hit Abreu there," Shields told us after the game. "No doubt about that. It’s a 0-0 ballgame. I’m not trying to put a baserunner on there.
"You know, when he stepped on Hoz, I went over there and asked (Abreu) if everything was OK. And then after I hit him, after the inning was over, I went over to him and made sure he was all right."
The White Sox apparently didn’t see it that way.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, White Sox starter Chris Sale threw a pitch at Omar Infante’s feet with a 2-0 count.
Home plate umpire Greg Gibson immediately warned both pitchers and both benches.
"There was definitely no intent (from me)," Shields said. "I understand that they’re trying to protect their players over there, I guess. But in that situation I’m not trying to hit him and I don’t think there’s any need for retaliation."
In fact, Shields appeared extremely upset with himself after hitting Abreu.
"Yeah, I was," he said. "It’s a 0-0 ballgame. I’m not trying to hit him. I’m trying to get him out."
Shields had little trouble getting White Sox hitters out much of the day. He gave up just five hits through seven innings, walked none and struck out six.
Shields gave up just one run, and that was somewhat cheap. Conor Gillaspie doubled with one out, went to third on a dribbler in front of the plate, and scored on Alexei Ramirez’s soft ground ball up the middle that went for an infield hit.
"I made a pretty good pitch to him, and he just hit it up the middle," Shields said of Ramirez. "We had him shaded to the 6 hole. It’s a tough battle."
Manager Ned Yost, as usual, was impressed with his ace.
"I think that’s the best stuff I’ve seen him have since he’s been here," Yost said.
Shields couldn’t disagree.
"I felt really good," he said. "Me and (pitching coach) Dave (Eiland) kind of went over my delivery in my last bullpen session and I got locked in a little. I’ve been trying to throw my curveball over for strikes and I was able to do that today. I was pretty pleased with it.
"For the most part I just tried to go out there and trust my stuff. And stay aggressive."
Yet it was another disappointment at the hands of Sale and the White Sox, who beat Shields in last year’s opener 1-0. Sale and Shields hooked up again in early May, and Shields left with a 1-0 lead only to watch the bullpen give it up.
Shields did finally beat Sale in September.
"The pitcher on the other side is pretty good," Shields said. "Any time I go up against him I try to go toe to toe with him. That’s all you can do."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.