James Shields got victory No. 100. Jamey Carroll got hit No. 1,000. And Alex Gordon made a catch that seems likely to enjoy a long life in highlight reels (or whatever they’re called in the digital age).
Not a bad way for the Royals to start the season’s final weekend.
Shields wrapped up his season by working seven strong innings in a 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. He yielded just four hits and matched a season high with 10 strikeouts.
“One hundred wins in the big leagues, man,” Shields pondered. “That’s a pretty special moment. The guys congratulated me after the game. You definitely take it in.”
Carroll’s milestone came on a double in the fourth inning as part of a balanced 14-hit attack that supported Shields and boosted the Royals to 85-75 with two games remaining.
“I’m just thankful it happened before the season ended,” Carroll said. “It was going to be a long offseason, if it didn’t.”
Those 85 victories are the most by the Royals since they finished 92-70 in 1989. Getting to 10 games over .500 matched a season best, and they did it by whacking around Chicago ace Chris Sale for four runs in 5 1/3 innings.
“We just got to a good pitcher,” said designated hitter Billy Butler, who contributed a two-run double to a three-run first inning.
“Those guys have their (bad) days, and you have to enjoy them when you can, because he’s going to be back out there dominating more times than not.”
But Gordon stole the show.
The Royals led 6-0 when Shields began the sixth inning by striking out Jordan Danks before losing his shutout when Gordon Beckham sent a homer beyond Gordon’s reach at the left-field wall.
Alexei Ramirez, who already had two hits against Shields, sent another drive to deep left. Gordon retreated to the wall in front of the White Sox’s bullpen, leaped and came down without the ball.
As Ramirez rounded the bases, and fireworks went off, Gordon planted his feet and made a nonchalant catch. Ramirez stared in disbelief. Shields broke into a wide grin. And the crowd of 24,474 muted into silence.
“It wasn’t on purpose,” Gordon said sheepishly. “I messed up the play and tried to play it off as best as I could. Beckham hit the home run, and I tried to rob it. It was out of my reach.
“Once Ramirez hit it, I knew it was high enough, and I thought he got all of it. So I just turned, put my head down and ran back and found the fence.
“Once I realized it wasn’t going to go over it, I tried to play it off as easily as possible. I guess I did.”
Gordon fooled everyone by holding the ball for a moment while he talked to members of the White Sox’s bullpen before turning and throwing the ball back to the infield.
“He deked the whole stadium,” Shields said. “When he climbed up on the wall, I figured it was a home run. I looked back at the umpire, Jerry (Meals), to ask for a new ball.
“The fireworks are going off, and I’m looking at Salvy (Perez), who’s saying, ‘He caught it! He caught it.’ I looked back, and (Ramirez) is still rounding the bases and thinking, ‘What’s going on right now?’”
Just an out that, perhaps, revealed how far the Royals have come since 2006 when, here on a May afternoon, Kerry Robinson was fooled on a drive to deep center.
Robinson also climbed the wall and stayed there — while the ball bounced behind him off the warning track and over the wall for a rulebook double. In contrast, Gordon came down and made the catch.
“I was joking around with the bullpen,” he said. “I don’t know if they thought it was too funny. I was just saying that was a horrible play by me, and I started laughing.
“All of a sudden, I heard the fireworks. I wasn’t trying to deke anyone, but that’s kind of how it came off. I just tried to make it as smooth as possible like I had everything under control — which I didn’t.”
Shields, 13-9, completed the inning and worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh before Wade Davis closed out the victory with two scoreless innings.
Sale 11-14, outdueled Shields on opening day in a 1-0 victory and had allowed just two runs in 24 innings this season against the Royals in three starts. He gave up three runs in the first inning.
The White Sox summoned Jacob Petricka with one out and nobody on base in the sixth, and the Royals struck quickly for two more runs before the inning ended.
Alcides Escobar singled and scored on Gordon’s double, and Gordon scored on Emilio Bonifacio’s second RBI single of the game for a 6-0 lead.
All prelude to what happened later in the inning.
Bonifacio started the three-run first by drawing a one-out walk and stealing second. Eric Hosmer flared a single to right, but Bonifacio had to hold up to make sure the ball dropped and only reached third.
Both runners scored when Billy Butler drove a double into the right-center gap. Salvy Perez’s single through the left side move Butler to third. Sale struck out Justin Maxwell, but Lorenzo Cain pulled an RBI single to left.
Carroll just missed a one-out homer in the fourth inning but settled for a double off the wall — and the 1,000th hit of his career. It turned into a run when Bonifacio delivered an two-out RBI single.
“Huge for me,” manager Ned Yost said. “Even though you’re managing the game, you’re a fan. You know these kids, and you’re pulling for them so hard to accomplish this because you know what it means.
“One hundred wins is fantastic. Jamey’s 1000th hit, it was huge to be able to get.”
Gordon upstaged them both.