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James Shields has no defense for dismal performance

James Shields of the Kansas City Royals gets

James Shields of the Kansas City Royals gets pulled out of the game in the fourth inning by manager Ned Yost against the San Francisco Giants during Game 1 of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium on Oct. 21, 2014 in Kansas City, Mo. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - So the Royals lost.

For the past 29 years, that didn't seem like such a big deal. Kind of what we all expected, really.

But in threatening to run the table this October, with a stunning 8-0 sweep of the A's, Angels and Orioles, the Royals started to give us that whole destiny vibe. The small-market club turned steamroller.

Everybody outside the Bay Area -- with the exception of those who grew up near the Polo Grounds -- was on board with the Royals. If they could win a title with an undefeated month, even better.

It was a great story.

Until Tuesday night's 7-1 loss, when James Shields happened. The pitcher previously known as "Big Game" came up small in what was being described in these parts as the most celebrated sporting event in Kansas City's history.

The '85 championship was huge, but that was before the Internet, Twitter and 24-hour sports-talk radio. Back then, you watched the game on one of the three TV networks, then read about it the next morning in the newspaper.

Shields won't get off that easily. By the time he was lifted with none out in the third, we already knew the finer details of his epically bad performance.

Did you know that Shields joined Woody Williams (2004 Cardinals) and Hal Newhouser (1945 Tigers) as only the third World Series Game 1 starter to give up five or more runs and seven or more hits in three innings? How about his 5.24 ERA in 10 career playoff starts, including 7.11 this month?

Shields wasn't interested in hearing it. When asked if there was any common thread linking his lousy playoff outings, maybe a correctable flaw, Shields wore a blank expression.

"Next question," he said.

That may be a moot point. There's no guarantee Shields will get another shot at the Giants. He's a free agent in a few weeks, so he won't be the Royals' problem for much longer.

But he was Tuesday night. And once Hunter Pence connected on a long two-run homer that put the Giants up 3-0 in the first inning, you could sense the magic flickering at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have rallied plenty of times during this postseason and erased a four-run deficit just to survive the A's in the wild-card game.

But this felt different. Probably because it was the Giants, a team on a pretty good roll themselves, only with the pedigree of two World Series rings in the past four years.

"Momentum, I think, is underrated," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, "because it does so much."

The Giants had the edge anyway Tuesday night with Madison Bumgarner on the mound. He extended his World Series streak of scoreless innings to 212/3 innings before Salvador Perez homered with two outs in the seventh. By then, a decent chunk of the 40,459 fans had left, despite waiting nearly three decades for this night.

"You have to treat it just like any other game," Eric Hosmer said. "It's nothing we haven't been through before. We're all professionals."

The Giants just outplayed them, in basically every aspect.

"We just didn't get it done," Mike Moustakas said. "But we're not worried about it. We've already forgotten about tonight."

As flat as they looked in the opener, it is one loss. The Royals' winning steak is kaput. But it's not like the Series is over.

"We always like our chances coming in," Billy Butler said. "Today just wasn't our day."

For the first time this month. Now they have to make sure it doesn't become a habit.

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