At this rate, the Royals need to add some more promotions to their schedule.
A Western Carolina night for Greg Holland. Cal State Fullerton day for Christian Colon. Southwest Mississippi Community College weekend for Jarrod Dyson.
The college promotions continued to pay off Saturday as the Royals stayed red-hot with a 5-0 triumph over the Giants in front of 35,114 at Kauffman Stadium.
The game’s opening run came courtesy of an Alex Gordon home run that soared over the wall in right-center in the fifth inning.
That’s Gordon, a former Nebraska All-American, going deep on Nebraska night.
“I go deep all the time, what are you talking about?” Gordon joked when asked if the red-clad fans at Kauffman Stadium provided extra juice. “It was a good crowd. It energized all the players.”
College night also worked for relief pitcher Aaron Crow, a former MU Tiger who got a save on Missouri night last month.
Of course, when James Shields pitches the way he did Saturday, that’s the best promotion the Royals can offer.
Shields was masterly in pitching the ninth shutout of his career and first in his two seasons in Kansas City. He surrendered four hits, struck out five and walked one. He completed the gem by freezing Pablo Sandoval on a strikeout to end the game.
Shields’ best moment came in the eighth inning after he surrendered a leadoff double to Joe Panik. Shields got some nice defense from Gordon, who tracked Travis Ishikawa’s line drive, and from Mike Moustakas, who went to his left and snared Matt Duffy’s grounder. Shields took care of Angel Pagan himself with a strikeout.
“I felt good, mixing up my fastball, locating my pitches well,” said Shields, who improved to 11-6 this season and has a 1.65 ERA in his last seven starts.
His 109-pitch outing became the Royals’ first complete-game shutout since last August, and second complete game in four games. Jeremy Guthrie notched a bullpen-saving effort in Arizona earlier in the week.
“Definitely got me going,” Shields said. “Not just me and Jeremy, but all the starters told each other we have to go deeper in games and save this bullpen. They’ve done a phenomenal job, and we want to keep it that way.”
After fanning Sandoval, Shields turned to the Royals bullpen and offered a salute.
Bullpen, starters, hitting, defense, it’s all come together lately for the Royals. who won for the 14th time in 17 games and moved 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers for the AL Central Division lead.
The Royals’ sixth straight victory also kept them in a wild-card position, and they won their sixth straight series after being swept at Boston coming out of the All-Star break.
“We’re all feeling pretty confident right now, it’s through the roof,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain said.
Not that Shields needed the extra cushion, but Cain had the biggest at-bat in a seventh-inning uprising that put the game away.
Billy Butler’s leadoff double got things started, and Gordon was looking for his second RBI when he grounded the ball through the middle. But third-base coach Mike Jirschele wisely held the slow-footed Butler at third.
Cain quickly found himself down 0-2, but he battled back to a full count, fouled off a couple of pitches and bounced a single through the right side that scored Butler.
“Just up there battling,” Cain said. “I had to find a way to get the ball in play.”
Raul Ibanez grounded into a double play, but Moustakas picked him up, ripping a double down the right-field line against former Royals left-hander Jeremy Affeldt. Gordon’s run made it 3-0.
Alcides Escobar and Dyson added RBI singles, and the Royals handed Shields a five-run lead in the eighth. He took care of the rest and found himself under an ice-bucket bath on the field after the game.
Gordon was just as uncomfortable, taking the lead in a public-address cheer of “Go Big Red.”
“I heard it was pretty bad, it was kind of awkward, but I tried my best,” Gordon said.
What he did on the field was good enough.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.