DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — James Shields made a stellar first start against his former team, and Mike Moustakas hit a two-run homer to spur the Kansas City Royals to an 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
Shields (2-2) allowed a two-run homer to Matt Joyce in the first inning, but only allowed three more hits over the next six. He struck out seven in the kind of dominant performance that the Royals were hoping for when they acquired him in December.
The Royals trailed 2-1 in the sixth when Moustakas’ first homer of the year gave Kansas City the lead. The Royals added another run to chase Rays starter Alex Cobb (3-2), and three more off reliever Brandon Gomes in the seventh, ensuring up the win for “Big Game” James.
The victory snapped a two-game skid and allowed Kansas City to finish 14-10 in April, a dramatic improvement from the 6-15 mark that the Royals carried into May a year ago.
Tampa Bay dropped to 4-10 on the road this season.
Kansas City has been looking for a legitimate No. 1 starter for years, and finally made the bold decision to acquire Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis from Tampa Bay to fill the void.
The deal turned heads in part because the Royals mortgaged their future in minor league star Wil Myers and a package of prospects to win in the present. Shields had spent the first seven seasons of his big league career in Tampa Bay, where he holds franchise records for wins, starts, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts and strikeouts.
So far, he’s made the trade look good for Kansas City.
Shields lost 1-0 to the White Sox on opening day, and tossed a complete game in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays. He’s gone at least six innings in every start, and eight his last time out against Detroit.
Early on, he seemed too amped up facing his former team.
Desmond Jennings hit the first pitch of the game for a single and Joyce followed with a homer over the right-field wall. It was the 15th consecutive game in which Tampa Bay hit a home run, tying the franchise record.
Cobb allowed just four hits over the first five innings. At one point, the only ball the Royals hit out of the infield over a span of 12 batters was a measly single by Elliott Johnson.
Cobb had retired the first two batters in the sixth when things unraveled. Eric Hosmer doubled and Lorenzo Cain drove him in with a single, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings for Kansas City.
Moustakas then connected against Cobb over the right-field fence for his first homer since Sept. 14, a span of 129 at-bats. Jeff Francoeur followed with a double and Salvador Perez’s RBI single made it 4-2. Cobb was lifted when Johnson singled again, ending his night after 5 2-3 innings.
The Royals built a cushion in the seventh. Moustakas hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, and Hosmer scored from third when Cain stole second and catcher Jose Molina threw the ball into center field.
Francoeur followed with an RBI triple, giving the Royals a 7-2 lead and Shields the rest of the night off. The Kansas City bullpen pitched two scoreless innings to finish things up.
NOTES: RHP Jeremy Hellickson starts Wednesday night for Tampa Bay. RHP Luis Mendoza takes the mound for Kansas City. … The Rays activated Luke Scott (right calf strain) from the DL and designated DH Shelley Duncan for assignment. Scott went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.