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The Grand Slam: James Shields tosses ninth career shutout as Royals win again

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

James Shields was given the nickname "Big Game" during his minor league days for reasons completely unrelated to baseball. However, on Saturday night in Kansas City, it definitely applied to his game, as the Kansas City Royals right-hander tossed his ninth career shutout in a 5-0 win over the Giants.

It wasn't a postseason atmosphere by any means, but Shields admittedly put some extra pressure on himself and was determined to pull Kansas City across the finish line without forcing manager Ned Yost to call on his bullpen. That's why he was so animated after striking out Pablo Sandoval for the final out, which extended the Royals winning streak to six games. 

''I was just saluting the bullpen, man,'' Shields said. ''They've done a phenomenal job for us, saving our behinds all year long. It's nice to give them a day off. It's just a nice little salute to the bullpen, tell them to take a day.''

Shields is making a pretty good career out of saving bullpens. In his first eight full seasons, he has topped 200 innings every season, and he's on pace to do so again with 166 1/3 through 25 starts. But Saturday was definitely his best of the season. Shields allowed only four hits and walked one while striking out five.

It was his first shutout since Sept. 9, 2012.

ANOTHER BLOWN SAVE FOR JOE NATHAN: Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is giving closer Joe Nathan every opportunity to get on track and establish some consistency, and up until Saturday that appeared to be paying off. Nathan entered the game with seven consecutive scoreless outings and five straight successful saves. But that run came to an end as Toronto hung Nathan's seventh blown save on him in the ninth and eventually won 3-2 on Nolan Reimold's walk-off double in the 10th.

Given a slim one-run lead to work with, Nathan allowed a leadoff single to Jose Reyes, which is always a recipe for trouble. Reyes immediately went about wreaking havoc by stealing second and then advancing to third on Melky Cabrera's fly ball to right. After an intentional walk to Jose Bautista, catcher Dioner Navarro tied it up with an RBI single.

Nathan was eventually pullled in favor of Joakim Soria, who escaped the jam with the bases loaded. But Ausmus intends on sticking with Nathan, for better or worse.

TREVOR MAY WALKS SEVEN IN MLB DEBUT: You never really know what you'll get from a pitcher in his major league debut, and for Minnesota Twins prospect Trevor May, it went about as poorly as can be expected. The 24-year-old right-hander, who is Minnesota's No. 8 prospect, was called up on Saturday to pitch against the Oakland A's but lasted only two innings in the Twins 9-4 loss.

May ended up allowing four runs on three hits and didn't record a strikeout. More troubling, only 28 of his 63 pitches were strikes, and before his night was over he issued seven walks. He walked two in the first inning, including Derek Norris with the bases loaded. In the second, he walked five more, again including Norris with the bases loaded. Josh Donaldson added a two-run single to break the score open.

In 17 starts at Triple-A this season, May only issued 37 walks. Saturday's outing was probably a case of nerves getting the best of him, but here's hoping he can shake it off and rebound in his next one.

ASTROS BEAT UP ON YU DARVISH: On more than one occasion a matchup with the Houston Astros has resulted in a nearly historic outing for Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish. But that hasn't been the story lately. Exactly one month after roughing him up for six runs in six innings in Arlington, the Astros knocked him around for six runs (five earned) in four innings en route to an 8-3 win on Saturday. 

In fact, the entire series has shifted the Astros way of late. They won each of the last seven meetings between the in-state rivals, and will go for the weekend sweep on Sunday. In Saturday's win, rookie Jon Singleton paced he offense with two hits and three RBIs. Robbie Grossman reached three times and scored three runs out of the lead-off spot. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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