Hosmer, Royals edge Cardinals, 8-7, late

6/4/2014

By Andy MCcullough

By Andy MCcullough

Kansas City Star

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (MCT) — Mike Jirschele trained his eyes into left field, hesitating for the briefest of moments. The Royals had installed him as their third-base coach five days prior, and here was his first moment under fire. As Omar Infante headed for third, Jirschele made his decision, wheeling his arm, paving the way for the go-ahead run in a wild 8-7 victory over the Cardinals.

Infante scored the run. The RBI belonged to Eric Hosmer, who had spent the past three weeks with his bat encased in ice. He flicked an opposite single off St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal to snap the tie. It was his second hit of the evening, as the Royals (28-30) collected their second consecutive victory over their cross-state rivals.

The team weathered a series of haymakers from the defending National League champs, and survived despite an alarming effort from their best starter. A trio of singles — including an infield hit for Billy Butler and an RBI bloop for Alcides Escobar — tied the game in the eighth. The late-game flurry removed some responsibility of the shoulders of James Shields, who has been quite ineffective in the past two weeks.

The start was a full-blown disaster. He lacked his usual command. He could not keep the ball in the park. He failed to protect a two-run lead after his teammates pounded St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia in the fifth. Shields buckled soon after, and exited after 51/3 lousy innings.

No longer can the Royals cite unseasonable climes when they discuss their offensive deficiencies. The temperature at first pitch was 90 degrees, and it was a degree warmer as the team gathered for batting practice. An industrial fan billowed relief through the dugout as Shields entered.

He hauled 32-year-old frame, the one which has sustained him through nearly 1,800 big-league innings, onto the bench. Last week, reports emerged linking trade-deadline buyers with Shields. The rumors are nothing new for Shields. The timing confused him, though. "I thought those started next month," he said.

He was correct. The market won't heat up until the beginning of July. Even though, the team would be loath to deal Shields. They acquired him to push for the playoffs. Punting on that goal would be painful.

The Royals can quell the speculation with victories. Stuck with one of baseball's worst offenses, each game is a struggle. A recent funk for Shields only compounds matters. He allowed six runs in his last outing. After Tuesday's performance, he has now given up 17 runs in his three starts, which translates to a 7.36 ERA.

That statistic spiked after Tuesday's second inning. The jam originated with groundball singles. Rookie Oscar Taveres ripped one past Eric Hosmer's dive for a leadoff hit. Jon Jay pulled another one past Hosmer, who was holding Taveras at the bag. Shields walked Matt Carpenter to load the bases.

To the plate walked Wong, a 5-9, 23-year-old without a homer in his previous 199 at-bats in the majors. He notched his first thanks to a misplaced changeup. Wong lined the pitch to right.

Nori Aoki sprinted toward the fence. He slowed as he realized the futility of his effort. The slam fell into the Cardinals bullpen. The fans showered Wong with a curtain call, and the Royals fell into an early hole.

They didn't emerge from it until the fifth. Mike Moustakas lined a hanging slider from Garcia for a one-out double. Escobar slashed an RBI triple into the left-center gap, and the Royals had a run.

They acquired a second soon after, and Shields bore the responsibility. He smashed another ill-located slider from Garcia. The first double of Shields' career soared over the head of left fielder Matt Holliday. He also notched his second-ever two-hit game. Nori Aoki brought him home by slicing a single down the third-base line.

Garcia bailed out the floundering Eric Hosmer by hitting him with a pitch. Up came Alex Gordon. The night before, he pounced on a high fastball for a homer to ignite his teammates. This time, he tattooed a hanging curveball into the right-field seats, a three-run blast to cap the six-run flurry.

The advantage did not even last one half inning. The runs were unearned. The results still wounded. The blame begins with Shields, who walked leadoff batter Matt Holliday. When Moustakas flubbed a grounder, the Cardinals had life.

Both runners scored. Taveras lofted a sacrifice fly to right. Jhonny Peralta tied the game with a single past Moustakas. Shields shouted with anger on the mound.

His frustration would only increase, even if his offense prevented him the indignity of a loss.

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