The first interleague matchup of the year had all the makings of a pitcher’s duel. Unfortunately for the Rays, James Shields was just off tonight.
The Braves got to Shields in the top of the first inning. With one out, Martin Prado doubled to left. Freddie Freeman followed with a single to center, scoring Prado and giving the Braves a quick 1-0 lead. The Braves extended the lead in the second, as Chipper Jones led off the top of the fame with a base hit to center. Following a Jason Heyward walk, Shields was able to get Eric Hinske to ground into a double play, putting Jones on third with two out. After going up 0-2 to Tyler Pastornicky, Shields threw three straight balls, including a wild pitch that allowed Jones to score, extending the lead to 2-0. Despite Pastornicky hitting a single, Shields escaped further harm by striking out Michael Bourn.
The Rays came right back against Braves starter Tommy Hanson in the bottom of the second. With one out, Luke Scott reached on an infield hit. Jeff Keppinger singled to center, putting runners on first and third. Elliot Johnson bunted for a base hit, scoring Scott and cutting the lead to 2-1. In the bottom of the third, B.J. Upton reached on an infield single to short. After Upton stole second, Matt Joyce walked. Upton and Joyce executed a double steal, followed by a Carlos Pena walk to load the bases. Scott hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Upton and tying the game at 2-2.
Shields settled in after the rough start, mowing down the Braves until a Prado walk with two out in the top of the fifth. Prado moved to second on a failed pickoff attempt by Shields, and scored on a Freeman double to give the Braves a 3-2 lead. Dan Uggla drew a walk, and Brain McCann followed with a single through the shift to score Freeman, extending the Braves lead to 4-2.
Shields was out after the sixth, giving up 7 hits and 3 walks through his 6 innings of work. He allowed 4 earned runs, and struck out 8. J.P. Howell came in for the seventh, and with one out, gave up a home run to Prado, giving the Braves a 5-2 lead. The Braves threatened to put the game out of reach in the top of the eighth inning, as they loaded the bases with one out. However, struck out Pastornicky and got Bourn to ground to first to end the threat.
Hanson exited the game after the seventh, giving up 2 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 batters. Johnny Venters came in, and with one out, hit pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez in the foot with a pitch. After getting Pena to pop out, Rodriguez moved up to second on a passed ball. Scott continued his hot night, singling just over the second baseman and scoring Rodriguez, cutting the lead to 5-3.
That was as close as the Rays would come. Craig Kimbrel came in for the ninth, and recorded a perfect inning, preserving the Braves 5-3 victory. The game ended when Stephen Vogt lined out to a diving Michael Bourn, denying Vogt of his first major league hit.
With the loss, the Rays drop to 25-15 on the season, two games behind the Orioles for the AL East lead.