CLEVELAND — Alex Gordon homered on the game’s first pitch, James Shields dominated after a shaky first inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 6-2 today in a matchup of teams fighting for an American League playoff spot.
Kansas City took two of three in the series between clubs that are in contention for the second wild card spot in the AL. The Royals, who entered today trailing Tampa Bay by three games, moved a game closer to the Indians. Cleveland was 1½ games behind the Rays.
The Royals had a home run, a triple and a single on the game’s first seven pitches to take a 2-0 lead. Kansas City added a run in the first inning.
Shields (11-9) gave up two runs, two hits, and hit a batter in the bottom half before taking control.
Michael Brantley had a two-run single in the first, but Shields didn’t allow another hit until Jason Kipnis’ leadoff single in the ninth. He retired 16 of 17 going into the ninth, but was removed after allowing singles to Kipnis and Carlos Santana.
Shields allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked one. Greg Holland retired the last three hitters for his 42nd save.
Gordon jumped on a 90 mph fastball from Scott Kazmir (8-8) and lined it into the seats in right field for his 13th career leadoff homer. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain added RBI singles.
The Indians won the first game of the series and finished 5-4 on their homestand, but failed to gain ground in the playoff chase for the second straight day. Cleveland will begin a seven-game trip in Chicago on Thursday. The Indians and Royals meet again in Kansas City for a three-game series next week.
Kansas City went 26-18 in a stretch of 44 games in 44 days.
Emilio Bonifacio followed Gordon’s homer with a triple. Right fielder Drew Stubbs attempted to make a diving catch, but the ball rolled past him, allowing Bonifacio to end up at third. Hosmer singled to center to make it 2-0.
Kazmir retired the next two hitters, but Justin Maxwell singled and Cain lined a single to center for the third run. The Royals then pulled off a double steal, but Jamey Carroll popped up to end the inning.
Shields also struggled in the first. Michael Bourn walked and Mike Aviles was hit by a pitch. The runners moved up on a groundout, and Brantley singled to center with two out.
Shields got the start following his shortest outing of the season, a start against Detroit on Friday in which he matched career worsts by allowing 10 runs and 14 hits in 3 2-3 innings in a 16-2 loss.
He bounced back today and improved to 2-5 in 13 career starts against Cleveland. Shields had no-decisions in his first three starts against the Indians this season, allowing nine earned runs in 16 1-3 innings.
After the first, Shields pitched like the ace the Royals envisioned he would be when they acquired him from the Rays for outfielder Wil Myers, one of baseball’s top prospects. The right-hander leads the AL with 207 2-3 innings pitched.
Shields’ biggest problem came with his own defense when he made two errors in the third. He dropped a throw from Hosmer at first base, allowing Kipnis to reach safely. He then threw wildly to first trying to pick off Kipnis, but retired Santana to end the inning.
Kazmir allowed four runs and nine hits in four innings. He struck out a season-high 12 over six scoreless innings in an 8-1 victory over the New York Mets in his last outing.
NOTES: The Royals will skip LHP Danny Duffy’s next start, which was scheduled to be Friday in Detroit. LHP Bruce Chen will pitch that game. Right-handers Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie will pitch Saturday and Sunday, respectively. ... Indians 1B Nick Swisher wasn’t in the lineup. He is batting .167 (8 for 48) with 15 strikeouts against Shields, including three hits in his last 25 at-bats. ... SS Asdrubal Cabrera, in a 3-for-26 slump, was also out of the lineup. He pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out. ... Kansas City’s off day on Thursday is its first since Aug. 19. ... RHP Corey Kluber (8-5) faces LHP John Danks (4-12) in the series opener against the White Sox.