KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals ace James Shields peered in at the Indians' Yan Gomes, who had stepped to the plate with two runners aboard in the fourth inning of a nip-and-tuck game between playoff contenders.
When Gomes swung and missed at strike three, Shields roared like a lion as he stalked off the mound, the intensity of meaningful September baseball etched across his face.
Shields wound up going six innings Monday night, and Salvador Perez led a scrappy Kansas City offense that eventually pulled away for a 7-1 victory in the opener of a pivotal three-game series.
Shields struck out a season-high 10 for the Royals (79-71), who moved within 2½ games of the AL's second wild-card berth. The Indians (81-69) remained a half-game back of Texas, which lost to Tampa Bay earlier in the night in a matchup of teams leading the wild-card race.
"Every game is important," Shields said. "This is what we live for, this is what we play for, September baseball, and hopefully we have a chance to go to the playoffs."
Shields (12-9) allowed only Lonnie Chisenhall's solo homer before turning the game over to his stingy bullpen. Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Tim Collins did the rest in a steady drizzle.
Perez finished with three hits and was among six different players to drive in a run for Kansas City, which is chasing its first postseason berth since winning the 1985 World Series.
"We have the talent to compete each and every night," said Lorenzo Cain, who drove in one of the runs. "You need a little luck every now and then, but we have the talent to compete.
Scott Kazmir (8-9) gave up four runs in 5-plus innings for the Indians. He didn't get a whole lot of help from his offense, which racked up a season-high 17 strikeouts.
"I did everything I could," Kazmir said. "I battled my butt off to get where I was."
Accustomed to pitching in important games, Shields kept the Indians guessing all night. He fanned three in the fifth after Chisenhall went deep, and the only other time he was in trouble was the first, when Shields stranded runners on second and third.
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