James Shields was acquired two offseasons ago to pitch in games like this for Kansas City.
With the Royals trying to avoid a sweep in their biggest series in years, the 32-year-old right-hander delivered.
“You don’t earn a nickname like ‘Big Game James’ for nothing,” manager Ned Yost said. “Games don’t come much bigger than this.”
Shields allowed two hits over seven innings in another terrific performance, and Kansas City edged Detroit 3-0 on Wednesday night to take a one-game lead over the Tigers atop the A.L. Central. Detroit had won the first two games of the series to pull into a virtual tie for first in the division.
The teams have a three-game series in Kansas City that starts Sept. 19.
“It’s definitely a game that we needed, for sure, but I think every game from here on out is pretty crucial,” Shields said. “We took a couple tough losses there, the last couple days, but we’re having fun right now and enjoying the moment.”
Shields gave up a single to Ian Kinsler leading off the first. Then he picked off Kinsler – and retired every other batter he faced until another Detroit single in the seventh. The Tigers put two on that inning, but Shields worked out of the jam.
Kelvin Herrera pitched the eighth and Wade Davis finished for his third save.
Rick Porcello pitched well for the Tigers, but Kansas City pushed across two runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain.
Alcides Escobar added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Shields was acquired in December 2012 in a trade that sent top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Myers won Rookie of the Year honors last season, but now Shields has helped put the Royals in contention for their first postseason appearance since 1985.
“The only thing I’ve been telling guys is just stay relaxed and have fun,” said Shields, who pitched in the postseason for Tampa Bay in 2008, 2010 and 2011. “This is why we play the game.”
White Sox 2, A’s 1
Avisail Garcia drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the eighth inning as host Chicago beat Oakland.
The Athletics were in line for the win after Jeff Samardzija threw seven scoreless innings, and Adam Dunn singled in a run against his former team.
Reliever Luke Gregerson gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Sanchez, and first baseman Nate Freiman threw wildly trying to force pinch-runner Leury Garcia at second after fielding Adam Eaton’s grounder.
The runners moved to second and third with one out when Gregerson bounced a 0-2 pitch to Jose Abreu before striking him out. He intentionally walked Conor Gillaspie to load the bases, and Garcia lined a pitch up the middle for a two-run single that made it 2-1.
Samardzija looked sharp in his first start in Chicago since the Cubs traded him to Oakland on July 5. He gave up six hits, struck out six and walked two.
White Sox rookie Chris Bassitt was almost as good.
In his second major league start, the right-hander gave up one run and five hits. He left to loud cheers after Derek Norris led off the seventh with a broken-bat single.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.