KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Rather than bemoan a slew of strikeouts, Indians manager Terry Francona preferred to simply praise Royals ace James Shields for the way he sliced up his lineup Monday night.
Shields kept the Indians off balance for six innings, Salvador Perez led a scrappy Kansas City offense and the result was a 7-1 victory over Cleveland in the opener of a three-game series with significant playoff implications.
Shields struck out a season-high 10 for the Royals (79-71), who moved within 2 1/2 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.
``He was really good,'' Francona said. ``He stayed out of the middle of the plate. He always has that off-speed in his back pocket. We had a lot of strikeouts, some looking, some swinging.''
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.
Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis each struck out three times. Jason Giambi and Yan Gomes were set down twice as the Indians piled up 17 strikeouts for the game.
``We couldn't get that big hit,'' Giambi said. ``We hit a few balls, but we couldn't drive in that big run and they kept pulling away.''
Scott Kazmir (8-9) gave up four runs in 5-plus innings for the Indians, and said afterward, ``I did everything I could. I battled my butt off to get where I was.''
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.
Accustomed to pitching in meaningful September games, Shields kept the Indians guessing all night. The former Rays ace struck out Gomes to leave two aboard in the fourth - roaring like a lion as he walked off the mound - and then fanned three in the fifth after Chisenhall went deep.
The only other trouble Shields had occurred in the first. Swisher reached on a single before Carlos Santana sent a two-out double down the right-field line. Swisher was held at third base, and then was stranded when Michael Brantley grounded out to end the inning.
``I definitely want to be the guy that has the rock in my hand, no doubt,'' Shields said.
Billy Butler started the scoring by driving in Emilio Bonifacio with a two-out single in the first, and then Kansas City tacked on another run in the third thanks to some hustle.
Alex Gordon struck out swinging but raced to first base when Kazmir's wild pitch went to the backstop. He reached third on Eric Hosmer's single and scored on Perez's two-out base knock.
``When Scott left the game, we're still in striking distance,'' Francona said. ``We didn't finish a couple of plays and it got away from us.''
That happened in the sixth, when Perez and Cain opened the inning with back-to-back triples for a 3-1 lead, and David Lough added a pinch-hit single to provide the Royals with another run.
Alcides Escobar reached base when shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera fielded his grounder and threw wide of first for an error, and then Bonifacio hit a dribbler toward Chisenhall at third that he mishandled for another error. The second in a span of three batters resulted in a 5-1 game.
The Royals added a pair of runs in the seventh inning to put it away.
``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.''
Notes: RHP Yordano Ventura will make his big league debut for the Royals on Tuesday night in place of LHP Danny Duffy, who has inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow. Ventura was 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA at Triple-A Omaha. ... Indians RHP Justin Masterson (oblique strain) threw from 110 feet before the game. Manager Terry Francona said he's hopeful Masterson will be available down the stretch. ... RHP Corey Kluber will start for the Indians on Wednesday night.