ST. PETERSBURG -- Big Game James looked right at home.
James Shields started at Tropicana Field for the first time in a visitors' uniform and worked seven shutout innings as the Royals bumped the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-0, on Monday night. He gave up just three hits and struck out 10.
Comfortable, cool, confident. That's how he looked.
"It's definitely special coming back here," Shields said. "I've thrown some shutouts here and I've also thrown champagne on the field as well. So there's a lot of good memories here. The fans were great to me, welcoming me back, and it's always a good feeling -- especially when you come out on top."
Perhaps some of the 13,406 fans did not share that good feeling, but they had to admire how Shields pitched.
The Rays' Desmond Jennings, 0-for-3 against Shields and hitless in four at-bats in the loss, certainly did.
"He pitched great, man," Jennings said. "He's a good pitcher for a reason. He was in control of the game the whole time. He knew what he wanted to throw, when he wanted to throw it. He kept the ball down, threw every pitch where he wanted to throw it."
Shields had made 110 starts at The Trop as a member of the Rays. No one had come close to his 47 wins under the dome. Well, now make that 48.
The victory was the first for Shields in his last four starts and made him 9-4 with a 3.71 ERA. He'd been in a three-game slump.
"He's not going to group together a bunch of bad starts in a row, even though his last three or four haven't been James Shields-esque," manager Ned Yost said. "Tonight was. It was time for him to get it back."
Shields almost met his match in Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi, the one-time Royals prospect who was dealt in the big December 2012 trade that brought Shields to Kansas City.
Odorizzi gave up just two of the Royals' runs in his six innings and he piled up eight strikeouts.
"We were going toe-to-toe there for a while and he did a good job on that side," Shields said, "but this is what we've been doing the last month and a half. We've been fighting one through nine, from the first out to the last out, we're fighting for runs."
Indeed, once Odorizzi departed, the Royals tacked on two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth off reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo.
The Royals finished with 14 hits including three each by Alex Gordon and Omar Infante. They each drove in two runs. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer had two hits apiece and both contributed to the scoring.
But it was still 2-0 when Shields left by a mutual decision with Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland in the dugout.
"We put our heads together," Shields said. "Wade Davis and Greg Holland haven't pitched in like four days so it was a good opportunity to get them out there. And I haven't been pitching so well lately, so it was good to end on a good note."
Davis, also part of the Shields trade, worked a perfect eighth inning, but with the Royals adding four runs there was no need to use Holland to close it out. Newcomer Scott Downs pitched a scoreless ninth.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked what he thought about being shut out by two guys the team had traded away.
"We just do a nice job of developing pitchers. That's what I thought," Maddon said.
Shields was reminded of the last game he pitched at The Trop for Tampa Bay. It was against Baltimore and he struck out 15 but lost, 1-0. The best performance of his career?
"I believe so, besides the loss factor," he said. "It's a little sweeter to come back here and get a win."
It was the 111th time for him on that mound.
"He was good. We've seen that act before," Maddon said. "Just the wrong uniform this time."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.