After consecutive wild starts in losses to the White Sox and Yankees, James Shields returned to form today, pitching 6.1 innings allowing just 1 earned run on 4 hits, as the Rays defeated the Marlins 4-2. The win is the 4th straight for the Rays, following two ugly losses to New York, to finish out the trip at 4-2 and maintaining a ½ game lead for first place in the AL East over the Yankees, and 1 full game ahead of the O’s.
The Rays got on the board early once again, with Carlos Pena drawing a 1 out walk in the 1st, followed by an RBI Double by BJ Upton, who ultimately was stranded at 3rd after advancing on the throw. In the 4th, however, the Rays would add to their lead. Matt Joyce led off with a towering home-run to the deepest part of the park. Ben Zobrist and Elliot Johnson would then continue their hot hitting ways this weekend, as a single by Zobrist and a home-run by Johnson, following a strikeout by Jose Lobaton , would give Tampa Bay a 4-0 lead. Those 4 runs proved to be enough, despite Shields having to pitch around trouble in the 6th and 7th innings.
After Justin Ruggiano led off the 6th with a pinch-hit double in place of the departed starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and advancing to 3rd on a sacrifice fly, Sean Rodriguez made a fine defensive play, something we saw more from the Rays over this weekend series. On a ground ball by Omar Infante, Ruggiano found himself hung up between 3rd and home, with Rodriguez chasing him toward home and flipping it to Lobaton, who put the tag on to record the second out of the inning. Shields would ultimately strike out the dangerous Giancarlo Stanton, stranding two runners, for the 3rd out,as the Rays maintained their 4-0 lead. After back to back doubles in the 7th for the Marlins followed by a walk broke the shutout, Shields was able to strike out Brett Hayes after an extended at bat. He’d give way to Jake McGee, who, with the tying run at the plate, retired Greg Dobbs and Jose Reyes to prevent any further damage.
Joel Peralta would pitch the 8th, after the Rays went down in order, and retired the first two men he faced, before allowing back to back singles by Stanton and Logan Morrison, which, along with Stanton taking 2nd base on what was ruled indifference, netted a run for the Marlins to cut the deficit to 4-2. Peralta, however, would go on to strike out Gabby Sanchez, stranding a runner, and turning the game over to Fernando Rodney. Despite allowing a 2 out single, Rodney got the job done, as the Marlins stranded yet another baserunner (they left 8 men on base today). The save was the 18th for Rodney in 19 tries, and Shields (7-4, 4.06 ERA) won his first decision since May 13th (9-8 over Baltimore). Anibal Sanchez took the loss for Miami, who lost its 6th straight home game. The Rays return home with the best mark in the AL at 35-25, and will have a day off tomorrow, before beginning a 3 game set with the Mets, followed by another 3 next weekend at the Trop vs. the Marlins.
Notes: James Shields has now allowed a combined 1 earned run in his last 3 starts vs the Marlins, including two complete game victories last season. The Rays went errorless for the 2nd consecutive game, and made just 1 error in total over the 3 game set. Tampa Bay has now won 7 straight against the Marlins, dating back to last season.