October 2, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields (33) reacts after he threw a complete game and career high 15 strikes out in one game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Baltimore Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Game 161: Shields Strikes Out 15, But Magic Gone as Rays Fall to Orioles 1-0


It is awfully hard to be any better than James Shields was on Tuesday night. He faced 29 batters, two above the minimum. In other words, he was two blemishes short of a perfect game. Chris Davis turned his one egregious mistake into a 4th inning solo homer and Nate McLouth had a single in the 6th. He didn’t walk a batter. He struck out 15, a Rays record. But his offense simply wasn’t there. You were just waiting for something to happen. But no. Shields was out there pitching his heart out, but it didn’t matter. The Rays were out of it- both in terms of their hopes for the postseason and their mindset. And they came up with nothing.

Miguel Gonzalez was outstanding for the Orioles, going 6.1 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day followed him with 1.2 innings of perfect relief to take the game to the 9th with the Orioles ahead 1-0. Jim Johnson came in for the Orioles looking for his 51st save of the season. The red-hot B.J. Upton, playing in his second-to-last game as a Ray, flew out softly to left-center. Ben Zobrist then walked to bring Evan Longoria to the plate as the winning run. But the Game 162 hero and the player who has come up huge for the Rays time and again didn’t have it, hitting another weak flyball, this one to right field. And Jeff Keppinger, who has been nothing short of miraculous for the Rays this season since signing as a free agent, grounded into a force play at second base as Ben Zobrist slid into second just after the play was made as the Orioles won 1-0. Another 1-run loss for the Rays, moving them to 21-27 in such games, while the Orioles’ win took them to 29-9 in 1-run games. One team continued their magical run this season, and it was not the Rays.

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