It was a magical day at the Trop on Sunday. Coming off a tough loss versus the Rangers, the Rays sent James Shields to the mound desperate for a win to give them a series victory versus the Rangers. They got their win all right, but they also got so much more.
After Shields worked around his own error in the top of the first inning, B.J. Upton led off for the Rays in the bottom half with Desmond Jennings getting a day off. B.J. started the game in resounding fashion drilling a first-pitch solo home run off of Roy Oswalt to make it 1-0 Rays right off the bat. The Rays weren’t done in the inning, scoring on a Matt Joyce RBI double to make it 2-0 before the frame was through.
Nelson Cruz beat out an infield single to begin the second inning for the Rangers. What was the significance of that? After the hit, Shields began to roll, retiring 19 Rangers in a row. While that was happening, the Rays gave him some more run support. In the second inning, Carlos Pena smacked an opposite-field single (nice to see him do that) before Jose Molina slammed a 2-run home run to make it 4-0 Rays. Then in the 4th inning, Upton stepped up to the plate and got ahead of Rangers reliever Martin Perez 3-0 before destroying a Perez fastball for another homer, this one a no-doubter into the left field seats to make it 5-0. It was Upton’s 20th homer of the season. And then in the 6th, Upton stepped up to the plate against versus Perez and slammed a hanging first-pitch curveball for a laser into the left field seats, his third homer of the game, to give the Rays a 6-0 lead. It was the first 3-homer game of his career and 4th multi-homer game as he had a special day.
Now, back to Shields. Shields retired every batter he faced from the Cruz single to lead off the second to a 2-out single by David Murphy in the 8th, a streak of 19 in a row. Shields wasn’t rattled by his streak being broken up, retiring 4 in a row to end the game to finish off his 2-hit shutout as the Rays won 6-0. Shields improved to 14-8 on the season as he went all 9 innings allowing just the 2 hits, striking out 8 while walking none. Shields had everything working, throwing 71 of 101 pitches for strikes and posting an 11-5 groundout to flyout ratio as he had exceptional command of his fastball and his cutter, which was probably his best cutter of the season, and of course his changeup was an outstanding pitch as usual. Shields was dominant as he nailed down his second complete game and shutout of the season and if a couple different things had broken differently, Shields could have had a no-hitter, maybe even a perfect game if he hadn’t committed the first inning error. Shields was absolutely in control and the Rays need him to continue pitching well the whole way through September.
Wow. A 2-hitter and a 3-homer game in the same day. Congrats to both Shields and Upton and their tremendous games. Both have been red-hot of late, and hopefully they’ll be more great games to come. It was just about the best way you could possibly draw it up to finish off the Rays’ hard-fought series versus the Rangers. The Rays have an off-day on Monday before heading to Camden Yards to start a crucial 3-game set with the Baltimore Orioles. With a series win, tight AL East and Wild Card races will get even tighter, and everyone around baseball will continue to realize that the Rays are a force to be reckoned with.