KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> The Kansas City Royals had adopted the scrappy, intense attitude of Royals starter James Shields during their thrilling postseason run. They followed his cue on Tuesday night, too.
It just happened that Shields was tight from the very first pitch.
The veteran starter was pounded for five runs on seven hits and a walk, failed to record an out in the third inning and was pulled from Game 1 to a smattering of boos. Kansas City went on to lose 7-1 to the San Francisco Giants in its first World Series appearance in 29 years.
“Maybe amped up a bit,” Shields acknowledged, “but I have to bear down and get the job done. That is the bottom line. I didn’t get the job done tonight.”
Neither did the rest of the Royals, who had swept through the playoffs but suddenly looked more like the 100-loss cellar-dwellers that Kansas City fielded so many times over the years.
The only run the Royals scored came on Salvador Perez’s homer in the seventh inning.
Their crisp defense had fallen apart, right fielder Nori Aoki at one point whiffing on a flyball that bounced past him for a triple. Their daring base-running had been made irrelevant. Their bullpen, too. And an offense that struggled all season managed three hits off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, flailing at his pitches as if they were hoping to make contact rather than expecting it.
“Maybe that happened because this group, we had a lot of guys making their World Series debuts tonight,” shortstop Alcides Escobar said. “Eventually we felt good.”
By that point, it was already too late.
Gregor Blanco tagged Shields for a leadoff single, Buster Posey added another single, and Pablo Sandoval doubled to right field before the game was 15 minutes old. Posey was thrown out at home on a nice relay throw by second baseman Omar Infante, but the Giants still had a 1-0 lead.
It became 3-0 when Hunter Pence homered on a full-count pitch in the next at-bat.
“That isn’t the way we planned it,” Shields said.
By the time Shields struck out Michael Morse to end the first, he had thrown 32 pitches. The anticipation that had built in the five days since the Royals won the AL pennant had evaporated, and a frenzied crowd that drove up ticket prices to an exhorbitant level had been silenced.
Shields, who shut out the Giants in August, set them down in order each of the next two innings. But even then, he was fortunate that several hard-hit balls found gloves.
His luck ran out in the fourth when Pence, who entered the game 0 for 11 in his career against Shields, connected for a leadoff double. Brandon Belt walked and Morse added an RBI single, forcing Royals manager Ned Yost to make a long, stoic walk to the mound.
Shields trudged to the dugout as Danny Duffy trotted in from the bullpen.
It certainly wasn’t the outing the Royals expected of “Big Game James,” who has been credited with changing the losing clubhouse culture in Kansas City. But it also wasn’t the first time Shields had failed up to the nickname given to him by his high school teammates.
After pitching marvelously down the stretch this season, Shields struggled in a wild-card win over Oakland. He fared a bit better against the Angels in the divisional round, but struggled again in the AL Championship Series against Baltimore.
“This is a funny game,” Yost said. “You can go out one night and give up seven runs and come back the next, your next five days around and throw a great game. But you have to know James Shields. You have to know that he’s a tremendous competitor. He has the ability to make adjustments.
“Right now he just hasn’t been as sharp as he has been,” Yost said, “But with the extra rest and then coming back five days from now, we think will benefit him.”
Assuming, of course, that Shields gets another chance in Game 5.
“We have a lot of character in this clubhouse,” he said. “This one obviously is our first loss in the postseason, but we’re not going to let it get us down.”