April 19, 2011
v. Chicago White Sox
|White Sox (7-10)||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||4||0|
W: James Shields (1-1) 3.07ERA
L: John Danks(0-2) 3.00 ERA
For those who thought at the beginning of the season that the Tampa Bay Rays were washed up, maybe they need to have a talk with James Shields.
On a night when last week’s Co-American League Player of the Week Johnny Damon was sitting out with a bruised thumb; in a game where Super Sam Fuld went 0-4 and looked, well, human; at Tropicana Field, the much-maligned stadium that houses two American League East pennants from the last three seasons; James Shields was once again James “Big Game” Shields.
His performance was nothing short of brilliance for a player many think will be on the trade block by the All-Star break. He pitched a complete game, striking out nine White Sox while throwing a grand total of 105 pitches, 76 of them for strikes.
Shields entered the game in the ninth inning with the Rays clinging to a 2-1 lead and with the top of the order staring him down. A single by Juan Pierre got the bullpen moving in a flurry of activity and after Gordon Beckham moved Pierre into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Joe Maddon throw a changeup. Instead Maddon stuck with Shields and was rewarded when Shields, hitting 95 on the radar gun, struck out Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko to end the threat and earn his first win of the season. Even more, the Rays as a team made a statement that should make the rest of the baseball world sit up and take notice.
Just nine days ago the Rays limped out of Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field with a 1-8 record, tied with the Boston Red Sox for the worst record in baseball. The Rays couldn’t hit; the Rays vaunted rotation was shelled, and Chicago finished the week at 6-3.
What has happened since can only be described as a complete reversal of fortune. Chicago has been on a slide since, winning only one of eight games while the Rays have lost only one game in their last eight. If you’d have said the Rays would have the better record nine games later you’d have been laughed out of any conversation as a kook.
Ben Zobrist scored both runs for the Rays. After knocking a fly ball over the head of Alex Rios in the first inning that netted him a triple, Zobrist scored the first run when Felipe Lopez grounded out to second base. In the fifth, with Zobrist on first, Sean Rodriguez laced a triple of his own into right center-field to score Zobrist. That was all run support Shields would need for the win.
Player of the Game: James Shields – His performance reminded me why his nick name is Big Game. He was actually stronger in the ninth than the beginning of the game, and when it was on the line he gutted it out with some brilliant pitches.
Ben Ice is the Lead Writer for Rays Colored Glasses, part of the FanSided network of sports blogs. For questions, comments or if you are interested in contributing to Rays Colored Glasses email me at [email protected], follow me on Twitter @Ben_Ice or at @RaysColoredGlasses and like us on Facebook at Rays Colored Glasses