James Shields was absolutely unbelievable on Tuesday night. He went the full 9 innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 15, a Rays record, while walking none. Yet he lost 1-0 as Chris Davis homered against him on one of his few mistakes in the fourth inning and the Rays could manage a single run to support him. Let’s look at the statistical significance of this game.
As we said before, Shields’ 15 strikeouts were a Rays record, breaking the mark of 14 that David Price set in just 7 innings on 8/28/11. There have been 13 games where a Rays pitcher has struck out 12 or more batters, 6 by Shields. It was the first time the Rays lost in a game in which their starter struck out 12 or more since Shields himself on 4/22/07, and it was the first time the pitcher himself received the loss since Dan Wheeler on 9/12/99.
Shields’ Game Score of 94 was the best in Rays history, edging out the 93 mark of his 3-hit, 13 strikeouts shutout on 5/22/11. Shields now holds the top three spots and four of the top five. He was the first pitcher in Rays history to lose a start with a Game Score of 90 or higher and the first time the team lost when their starter delivered such a game since Ryan Rupe‘s 9 shutout innings on 5/23/99 in a game the Rays would lose in extra innings.
But those are just the Rays ramifications. This goes far beyond that. Shields’ start was the first time since Kevin Appier on 7/27/93 that a pitcher lost with a Game Score of 90 or higher. It was just the fourth time since 1918 that a pitcher lost with a Game Score of 90 or higher in a 9 inning game. It was the second time this season that a pitcher lost despite 15 or more strikeouts and the 24th since 1918. It was just the 10th time since 1918 that a pitcher lost a 15-strikeout 9 inning complete game. (The last time was 5/6/02, when the Devil Rays somehow came away with a win in a game where Pedro Martinez struck out 17.) It was just the 7th time since 1918 that a pitcher lost a game in which he struck out 15 batters and walked none and first since John Smoltz on 4/19/05. And it was just the seventh time since 1918 that a pitcher had 15 strikeouts, no walks, and 2 hits allowed in a game, and the first time that a pitcher or even his team lost such a game. Joe Maddon called it “sinful” that the Rays could not get Shields a win in this game. And it’s nearly impossible to say otherwise.