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KC@SD: Shields fans four over seven shutout innings

SAN DIEGO -- How's this for an encouraging turnaround by the Royals in this lovely seaside city?

First, they snapped a burdensome five-game losing streak. Then, with an 8-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, the Royals actually won a series at Petco Park.

Quite a feat considering they'd lost all seven games ever played at San Diego before taking this series, two games to one.

"This place has been a house of horrors for us," manager Ned Yost said. "It's nice to come in here and win a couple games, play good baseball and take a series here. We've never done it."

James Shields pitched seven shutout innings and Eric Hosmer drove in four runs in with three singles on a sunny, 64-degree afternoon with 18,228 fans in the house.

Aaron Crow and Louis Coleman completed the shutout with a scoreless inning each. Hosmer and friends totaled 14 hits, including three each also by Nori Aoki and Danny Valencia. Center fielder Jarrod Dyson, shortstop Alcides Escobar and Hosmer at first base turned in outstanding defensive plays.

"That was what you call an AAGG," Yost said. "An all-around good game.

"In all phases -- Shields was great, the bullpen was great, our defense was solid and very good, our baserunning was really good, and offensively was as good a day as we've had -- against a darn good young pitcher -- in a long time."

Maybe the Royals were just getting tired of these last-minute, extra-inning conclusions to these games at San Diego. They lost the opener in 12 innings, then won the second game in 11.

At any rate, they got their runs gushing forth in the first inning in this series finale. They hadn't scored three runs in the first inning since their home opener on April 4 against the White Sox. They won that day, 7-5.

On the first pitch of the game, Aoki got things going against right-hander Andrew Cashner with a single and Escobar was safe when shortstop Everth Cabrera booted his roller. Then they pulled off a double steal, putting themselves in position to score when Hosmer ripped a single up the middle.

"It was huge," Yost said. "Any time you've got James Shields on the mound and you can strike first, and give him a little leeway, it's always a nice thing to have. Nori kind of set the tone with the first pitch."

After an out, Cabrera made another error, this time on Alex Gordon's bouncer. Valencia followed with a broken-bat single into left field and Hosmer scored.

The Royals went on to load the bases when Dyson walked with two outs and Shields, for a pitcher not accustomed to batting, gave Cashner quite a battle. Shields claimed he didn't even see the first couple of pitches, but he kept fouling off balls and finally, on a full count and the ninth pitch, grounded out to end the inning.

"When I faced him, he was pretty nasty," Shields said. "This guy was throwing bowling balls up there. He's got a heavy ball and he's a good pitcher so we were fortunate to get a couple runs early."

The Royals keep tacking on runs against the Padres' bullpen. With the Friars having a total of three errors plus a passed ball, half of the eight runs were unearned.

Despite seven hits, two walks and a hit batter from Shields, the Padres couldn't cross the plate.

"I didn't think my stuff was that good today," Shields said. "I was erratic, all over the place, getting behind in counts a lot. It was just a grind day, but sometimes you've got to go out there with not-your-good stuff and compete."

Shields kept fending off threats. Three singles in the second yielded nothing as the inning ended when Hosmer made a diving stop of Alexi Amarista's hit and his throw to Escobar caught Cameron Maybin overrunning second. Padres manager Bud Black challenged but, after an instant replay, the umpires ruled the call stands.

"He made a good play," Maybin said. "As I turned around, he had the ball and the replay wasn't conclusive enough to overturn the play. I felt like I got in there."

There were two on in the fifth, but center fielder Jarrod Dyson rushed in to grab Cabrera's fast-sinking liner.

"It's nice when you can give [Lorenzo] Cain a day off and throw Dice out there," Shields said. "He's been doing a phenomenal job, I don't think he gets enough credit for the job he did while Cain was down -- taking his spot and not losing anything out there."

In the sixth, a two-on situation was defused as pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal grounded into a double play nicely engineered by shortstop Escobar. In the ninth, Escobar helped Coleman with a stop on Maybin deep in the hole and an on-target bounce throw to Hosmer.

In the three games, the Royals had a total of 37 hits, an indication perhaps that the oft-sluggish offense is starting to gain momentum.

Hosmer had a 7-for-17 series with seven RBIs and, at last, his first home run. His average is up to .306 and he has 17 RBIs.

"I felt good. The power numbers will come, I'm not worried about that," he said. "I'm just trying to do anything to help this team win. The biggest thing today was coming up with guys in scoring position and getting runs in. That's huge for me."

Huge for the team was bouncing back from a series-opening, 12-inning loss in which the Royals twice lost late leads.

"That shows a lot of maturity, a lot of good things about a team," Hosmer said. "On a tough losing streak, to come in and have the game and then take a tough loss like that, and to come back and win a series like that says a lot about this team."

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