KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- He is known as "Big Game" James, and it was for games like Monday night's contest that the Kansas City Royals acquired James Shields.
Shields struck out a season-high 10 as the Royals defeated the Cleveland Indians 7-1 to open a crucial six-game homestand.
The victory moved the Royals within 2 1/2 games of the slumping Texas Rangers, who have lost seven straight and 10 of 11, for the second American League wild-card playoff spot. The Indians remain a half-game behind Texas, which plays a weekend series at Kauffman Stadium.
"Every game is important," Shields said. "This is what we live for, this is what we play for, September baseball, and hopefully we have a chance to go to the playoffs."
Salvador Perez went 3-for-4, walked, scored two runs and drove in a run to lead the Royals' 14-hit attack.
Shields (12-9), who was the cornerstone of a seven-player blockbuster trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in December, allowed one run on six hits in six innings while logging his 20th double-figure-strikeout game.
"He knows what is at stake, and he is getting after it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He is into it."
After beginning the season 2-6, Shields has won 10 of his past 13 decisions.
"He had great stuff," Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi said. "He was sharp. We couldn't get that big hit off of him. We hit a few balls, but we couldn't drive in that big run and they kept pulling away."
The Royals scored three runs in the sixth to take a 5-1 lead and chase Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir (8-9).
Perez and Lorenzo Cain started the inning with back-to-back triples to end Kazmir's evening. Pinch hitter David Lough greeted Matt Albers with a run-producing single.
"I got into the sixth inning and ended up giving up the leadoff triple, which was a huge momentum shift," Kazmir said. "I wish I went deeper in the game for sure. I did everything I could. I battled my butt off to get where I was."
Lough scored an unearned run after errors by Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Kazmir, who is 1-5 in seven starts since Aug. 9, was charged with four runs on seven hits and a walk in five-plus innings.
The Royals padded their advantage with two runs in the seventh, with Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar delivering RBI singles.
"They put it on us," Giambi said. "They played great baseball. They just out played us tonight."
Shields and relievers Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Tim Collins combined to strikeout 17, a season high for Royals pitchers and a season high for Indians hitters.
"I thought Shields was really good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He stayed out of the middle of the plate. He always has that off-speed in his back pocket. We had a lot of strikeouts, some looking, some swinging."
The Royals scored in the first when Billy Butler's two-out single brought home Emilio Bonifacio, who had an infield single and stole second. It was Bonifacio's 14th stolen base in 16 attempts since he was acquired in an Aug. 14 trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Kansas City added a run in the third. Alex Gordon led off by striking out but reached first on a Kazmir wild pitch. Eric Hosmer blooped a single to right, advancing Gordon to third. Perez's two-out single to right scored Gordon.
Chisenhall opened the fifth inning with his 11th home run to put the Indians on the scoreboard.
NOTES: Royals LHP Danny Duffy was scratched from his Tuesday start with left flexor tendon inflammation. "We're going to use the upmost caution with him right now, coming off Tommy John surgery," Yost said. Duffy had reconstructive elbow surgery on June 13, 2012. ... RHP Yordano "Ace" Ventura, who is the Royals' top pitching prospect, will make his major league debut as Duffy's replacement. Ventura, 22, went 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA and struck out 155 in 134 2/3 innings in the minors this season. ... Francona said RHP Justin Masterson, a 14-game winner who is out with a strained oblique, could throw off the mound Friday. It remains iffy that Masterson would be able to make a start before the season ends.