No matter how good James Shields is, the Royals can’t seem to provide him with an easy night. Don’t be deceived by the final score. Friday night was typical Shields outing except for one thing:
He got the winning decision when the Royals opened a three-game weekend stay at U.S. Cellular Field by pulling away late for a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Shields (5-7) worked seven innings before handing a 2-0 lead to Kelvin Herrera to start the eighth. Shields gave up eight hits, all singles, and has permitted only five runs this season to the White Sox in 26 innings over four starts.
Herrera retired the first two hitters in the eighth before serving up a homer to Conor Gillaspie, whose line drive to right just cleared the wall.
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So it was white-knuckle time — until the Royals answered with three runs in the ninth against relievers Matt Lindstrom and David Purcey.
After Billy Butler opened the inning with a walk, Jarrod Dyson entered the game as a pinch runner and immediately stole second.
Dyson moved to third on Salvy Perez’s single through the left side.
Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas followed with RBI singles, which turned a one-run lead into a three-run cushion. In came Purcey, who retired Elliot Johnson on a pop-up.
David Lough followed with a knuckling fly to left that Casper Wells, just inserted for defense, simply dropped. The scoring was a sacrifice fly and an error. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third before Purcey ended the inning by retiring the next two hitters.
The three-run ninth meant the Royals (49-51) turned to Luke Hochevar to finish off their fourth straight victory instead of closer Greg Holland.
The Royals built a 2-0 lead on Lough’s leadoff homer in the third inning, and Miguel Tejada’s sacrifice fly in the seventh after a leadoff double by Perez.
Both runs came against Chicago starter Jose Quintana, who fell to 5-3 despite permitting just six hits in seven innings.
Shields got off to a good start with a one-two-three first, which was the first time in five starts that he didn’t surrender a run in the first. Eighteen of his 51 earned runs this year scored in the first inning.
Chicago mounted a two-out threat in the second after Gillaspie singled. Dayan Viciedo followed with a walk before Cain ran down Gordon Beckham’s drive to deep center.
Lough opened the scoring with a leadoff homer in the third inning. He drove a 2-2 change-up an estimated 388 feet into the Royals’ bullpen beyond the right-field wall.
Shields pitched around another two-on jam in the fourth — again when Cain ran down a deep fly by Beckham for the final out.
The White Sox got two singles in the fifth, but Shields erased the first one — by Alejandro De Aza — with a pickoff at first base. It was the 26th pickoff of Shields’ career, which is the most by a right-hander since he entered the league in 2006.
Adam Dunn opened the Chicago sixth with a single and went to third on Viciedo’s two-out single up the middle. That got the game, again, to Beckham in an RBI situation.
A wild pitch moved Viciedo to second — Dunn held at third — before Shields loaded the bases by walking Beckham. Shields then retired Josh Phegley on a soft grounder to third; Moustakas stepped on the base for the force-out.
The Royals, after Lough’s homer, didn’t get a runner past first against Quintana until Perez started the seventh inning with a double down the left-field line.
Perez went to third on Cain’s grounder to second, which prompted the White Sox to shorten their infield with Moustakas at the plate. The strategy didn’t matter when Moustakas drew a four-pitch walk.
Chicago positioned its infield, at that point, at double-play depth for Tejada then delivered the run with a sacrifice fly to deep center.