Last night was not a good night for James Shields. With the Kansas City Royals in an important early season series with the Detroit Tigers, it was hoped that Shields would set the tone for the three game set, giving the Royals an excellent outing and a victory. Instead, Shields was hit often, giving up eight runs, seven earned, on twelve hits and a walk over 6.1 innings of work as the Royals dropped the first game of the series.
Yet, despite the loss, things could have been much worse for the Royals last night. After struggling in the third and fourth innings, Shields could have had a quick night, turning the game into one where the Royals run through their bullpen. With Danny Duffy slated to start today, and the expectation that he will be on a pitch count of roughly 70 pitches, that early exit could have been disastrous for the weekend.
Instead, James Shields was able to last into the seventh inning, absorbing the Tigers offensive onslaught. While such an outing may not have been kind to his personal statistics, what Shields was able to provide went beyond the box score – he was able to limit the amount of usage that the Royals put on their bullpen last night. As opposed to having to run through a parade of pitchers, Ned Yost only needed to bring in Kelvin Herrera and Michael Maroit. With Mariot only needing to throw 13 pitches last night, he could even be used once again today.
By remaining on the mound for as long as he did, Shields was able to provide the Royals with a valuable commodity – outs from their starting pitcher. Yes, the game resulted in a defeat, but sometimes one needs to lose the battle to win the war. Being able to get into the seventh inning on a night when he clearly did not have his best stuff, Shields was able to give the Royals the chance to win the series by not taxing the bullpen.
James Shields may not have pitched well, and he may have taken the loss, but he still kept the Royals from burning through their bullpen. There is plenty of value in that.