Shields hits K milestone, downs Rockies

5/14/2014

By ANDY MCCULLOUGH

By ANDY MCCULLOUGH

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MCT) — James Shields stood on the mound with his arm outstretched, confounded by an untimely delay in the action. He had just pumped a 94-mph fastball past Rockies superstar Troy Tulowitzki in the sixth inning of a 5-1 Royals victory. All around him, Kauffman Stadium began to rise.

And Shields merely looked confused.

High above center field, the scoreboard announced his achievement: Shields had just struck out the 1,500th batter in his nine-year career. At last he was instructed to turn around. He tipped his head back and laughed. He stepped off the mound and doffed his cap.

Then he went back to mowing down baseball's best offense. In a dominant, efficient performance, Shields (5-3, 2.54 ERA) spun seven innings of one-run baseball. He struck out eight in all. He also halted a streak that displayed the ferocity of his opponent: The Rockies had ripped an extra-base hit in each of their previous 42 games this season. They managed five singles against Shields.

Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez homered to power the offense, while Alcides Escobar plated two runs of his own. The Royals (19-19) have now boomed four in their last two games, as they attempt to climb out of MLB's basement in that category.

The afternoon began with unrest. General manager Dayton Moore spoke with a sizable crowd of reporters to explain why the team decided not to demote struggling third baseman Mike Moustakas. Moore issued a vote of confidence for Moustakas, and stressed the importance of his defense.

Through the season's first six weeks, the lineup persists as a model of inconsistency. The victory on Tuesday pushed the Royals' record to 18-2 when they score at least four runs. The mark was a point of emphasis for Moore.

"We've got to start winning games 2-1, and 3-1, and 3-0," Moore said. "The defense is going to be a major part of that when start winning games where we don't score four or more runs."

Moore picked an interesting matchup to make that declaration. The best offense in baseball strolled into Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

On Sunday morning in Seattle, Yost peered at some scouting notes on the recent performance of the Rockies. "I wonder what our advance report looks like," he said. "When I look at Colorado's, it says 'Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, cold, cold, hot, hot.' What do you think ours looks like? 'Cold, cold, lukewarm, cold?' "

He still sounded impressed two days later. The Rockies lead the majors in runs, home runs and various other categories. They entered Tuesday's game with a team-wide .855 on-base plus slugging percentage. Their next closest competitor? The Angels, with a .760 OPS.

"You look at their offensive numbers, and it's like 'Let me get my glasses to make sure this is right,' " Yost said.

The primary force behind the Colorado attack is shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. He entered the night sporting statistics ripped from a video game: 11 homers, 36 runs, a .395 batting average and a 1.263 on-base plus slugging percentage. Tulowitzki opened the first Rockies rally with a one-out single in the fourth.

Two batters later, Nolan Arenado roped another single. With two outs, runners stood at the corners for former American League MVP Justin Morneau. Shields pounded a cutter low and inside. Morneau still muscled it past a diving Eric Hosmer for an RBI single, a tally that negated a run-scoring hit from Escobar in the second.

The Royals provided an immediate answer. Cain jumped on a 91-mph fastball from lefty Franklin Morales for a two-run shot. It was his first home run since July 4, 2013. The next inning, Perez crushed a curveball for a solo homer.

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