KANSAS CITY -- James Shields gave the Tampa Bay Rays a sample of what they've been missing this year.
Mike Moustakas gave the Kansas City Royals a big portion of what they've been missing this year.
Shields, after a shaky beginning, turned in a strong performance and Moustakas knocked in three runs as the Royals toppled the Rays, 8-2, on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Moustakas banged a game-changing, two-run homer in the Royals' comeback sixth inning.
This was Shields' first start against the team that traded him last winter after he'd spent his entire career with the Rays.
"I've got a lot of friends on that team, but my job is to take care of my business on this side," Shields said. "There's always a good saying: Take 'em out to dinner afterwards."
Shields' first inning against his old team certainly didn't go as he would have liked. Not at all. Two batters resulted in two runs.
Desmond Jennings opened the game with a single up the middle and Matt Joyce, on a 3-1 pitch, hammered a two-run homer over the right-field wall. It plunked into the waterfall near the bullpen.
"Obviously, the first hit of the game was a check-swing by Des, but I fell behind in the count to Joyce, and he's too good a hitter to fall behind," Shields said. "I was down 2-0 in the first, and I knew I had to grind it out. I knew [Alex] Cobb was on the other side, doing his thing. He's pitched well all year long, and I just kept us in the game."
After an out, things got stickier on a walk to Evan Longoria and a double by James Loney. But here, Shields got stubborn and struck out both Yunel Escobar and Luke Scott to keep the score at 2-0.
Then Shields swung into high drive. He gave up a single in the second and a single in the third. However, after that he retired the last 13 batters he faced.
"That's typical Shields right there," said Cobb, who took the loss. "I think those two runs in the first might have hurt us a little bit, might have got him more angry. The competitor in him showed to the extreme tonight."
Cobb, with impressive credentials that included a 3-1 record and a 1.82 ERA entering the game, whisked through the first five innings. But he left in the sixth after giving up four runs.
"Walking off the mound, I think that's the most angry I've ever been after a game," Cobb said. "But you know, I felt like from pitch No. 1, I was going to be able to have a smooth, easy-sailing game, go as deep as I could. Out of nowhere, that happens, so I think feeling good and everything coming kind of easy and then just coming to a screeching halt is the most difficult thing to deal with."
With two out and nobody on in the sixth, all was peaceful for Cobb. Then Eric Hosmer doubled off the left-field wall.
"Hosmer hit that first-pitch breaking ball. That was incredible," said the Royals' Elliot Johnson, also a former Ray. "He's one of the few guys that can hit a first-pitch breaking ball off the wall, especially at this park. You think how many places that would be a home run."
Lorenzo Cain singled Hosmer home, and that brought up Moustakas. On a 1-0 pitch, he blasted a two-run homer over the right-field fence to put the Royals ahead, 3-2.
"That was the worst pitch of the game," Cobb said. "Just kind of laid a changeup in there, and he did what he should have with it."
For Moose, it was his first homer of the season; dating to last Sept. 14, he'd gone 129 at-bats without one.
The Royals' dugout erupted.
"The emotion was really, really high," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Shields has really bonded well with his teammates, and I think his teammates knew how big a game this was for him, and they bought in. They were extremely excited."
The fusillade continued as Jeff Francoeur laced a double to left and scored on Salvador Perez's lined single to left for a 4-2 lead. Then Johnson singled Perez to second. Now, after six straight two-out hits, Cobb was finished. Jamey Wright, a former Royal who has played on nine teams, relieved him and got Alex Gordon to ground out.
After that, Shields went out and threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning and finished his outing with his seventh strikeout. In all, he threw 102 pitches after expending 27 in the first inning.
"I was making my pitches when I needed to," Shields said. "I had like 48, 49 pitches in the first two innings, and I knew I had to grind it out after that. I was just trying to get a bunch of ground balls, early swings. That's a team over there that knows me real well, so it was a tough night."
But the Royals quite abruptly had a two-run lead, and it would grow by three in the seventh inning against reliever Brandon Gomes. The outburst included a missed pop fly and a throwing error by the Rays, but also featured a sacrifice fly by Moustakas and a run-scoring triple by Francoeur.
This was the Moustakas that KC fans had been waiting to see. He was hitting just .152 last Saturday, but he's since gone on a four-game hitting streak in which he's 5-for-11.
"He knows he's been getting really close, and he's been feeling really good," Yost said. "His last five games have been excellent. You can just see the way he's swinging the bat. He felt before the game that he was going to do something big to help James win, and he sure did."
Moustakas preferred to deflect attention to Shields, giving him credit for infusing the Royals with an emotional lift.
"That's where we get it from. That's what we look for from our ace," Moustakas said. "He battles and then gives up two early and then doesn't give up anything the rest of the game. We get that energy and that emotion and that drive from him when he's on the mound."
So let Yost have the last word on Moustakas.
"He's there," Yost said. "He's back."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.