KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bruce Chen, a journeyman left-hander who began the season in the minors and had a 1-13 record in the previous four years in the majors, knocked the Tampa Bay Rays into second place in the AL East.
Chen threw the first shutout of his major league career, a two-hitter, in the Kansas City Royals’ 7-0 victory over the struggling Rays.
Tampa Bay fell one-half game behind the New York Yankees, whose game at Boston on Friday was rained out. Tampa has two games left with the last-place Royals, while the Yankees have to play three at Boston.
The Rays have lost five of six, managing just 29 hits and nine runs in that span. The Rays, who have been no-hit twice this season, were held to six hits or less for the 56th time, the most in the majors.
“We have not looked good at the plate,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve been shut out three times in five days. We’ve been through short stretches like this but we always come out of it OK.
“It’s all interrelated, the pitching and the offense and the defense. We’re not dire, dour or downtrodden. We’ll go out and play a good game tomorrow and we’ll be fine.”
Chen (12-7) struck out a season-high seven in his first complete game since April 15, 2005 while with Baltimore against the Yankees. This was the third complete game of his 12-year career.
“It was one of those days where everything was working,” Chen said. “I would not say this year I would have 12 wins or I would not say I would have a complete-game shutout, but the way things have been unfolding — I got sent to the minor leagues, got called up, being in the bullpen and a rotation spot opened up for me.
“Then me pitching this well, it’s something like from a movie. It’s been a great year for me. The fans were chanting my name and they were so happy for me. It’s been a tough season for the team. We haven’t won as much as we should. It’s a very happy day for me.”
Chen became the first Royals left-hander to win 12 games in a season since Charlie Leibrandt won 13 and Floyd Bannister won 12 in 1988. He is eligible for free agency after the season.
“I would really like to be back,” Chen said. “I love this organization. They gave me an opportunity, when nobody else would. Let’s see what happens. There’s a lot of things they have to figure out. Hopefully, we can get into an agreement.”
Royals manager Ned Yost said he could not remember the last time he did not have a reliever warmup during a game.
“Never did we even think about getting on the phone and calling to get a reliever up,” Yost said. “That’s how good Bruce was today. That’s about as good it gets. Who would guess that at the end of the year, Bruce would end on a complete-game shutout where he was at the beginning of the year?”
James Shields (13-15) dropped to 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA in six starts since an Aug. 29 victory over Boston. In that stretch, he has allowed 40 hits and 29 runs, 27 earned, in 32 innings.
Sean Rodriguez’s bunt single in the third was the only hit the Rays had before B.J. Upton’s double with one out in the sixth. Upton was the lone Ray to reach second base.
Shields gave up 12 hits and seven runs in five-plus innings.
“It was a terrible job by me,” Shields said. “I don’t think we’ve played very well. We’re not hitting very well. We’re not fielding, and I definitely didn’t pitch well. That’s not a good combination for our team.”
Gregor Blanco, who had three hits and three RBIs, knocked Shields out with a two-run single in the sixth. Blanco scored in the first inning from second base when Billy Butler rolled into a double play.
The Royals scored three runs in the third, which included consecutive triples by Jarrod Dyson and Blanco to lead off the inning. Butler and Alex Gordon contributed run-producing singles in the inning.
Notes: Butler has grounded into a major league-leading 32 double plays. He is tied with four others for the third-most grounded into double plays in major league history. Jim Rice holds the record with 36 in 1984. … Rays 3B Evan Longoria missed his eighth straight game with a strained left quadriceps.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.