Rays Get the Sweep!
The Rays have rode the back of James Shields for about a month as they have tried to claw their way back in the AL playoff chase. Today, they lightened the load and gave him more than enough runs to make him feel comfortable as a starting pitcher. They built a three run lead in the first inning and cruised to a 9-1 win.
Desmond Jennings led off the game with a single and B.J. Upton followed with a single as well. Evan Longoria drew a walk to load the bases and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs on a single to left. A sac fly from Sean Rodriguez made it 3-0, and somehow you knew that would be enough for Shields. Just in case it wasn’t, Upton added a grand slam in the fifth to push the lead to 8-1.
Shields couldn’t quite notch his twelfth complete game of the year. He went eight and a third, gave up seven hits and had five strikeouts. The only real blemish on his day was a leadoff homerun by Marco Scutaro in the third. He threw 121 pitches; I would say that was enough, before leaving and recently recalled Dane De La Rosa came in to finish the game.
Let’s give it up for B.J. Upton. He has had his struggles this year. He has been the subject of numerous trade rumors and scenarios. He has never said he would rather be anywhere than with the Tampa Bay Rays. In a game that the Rays felt like they had to win to keep the momentum they had built over the weekend, Upton was huge. He went 4-4, scored three runs, and had a double to go along with his grand slam that broke things open in the fifth inning.
As exciting as this series was and as much ground as the Rays gained, it only means they are close enough to need to win some more. They are sky high and the Red Sox are reeling. They have three games in Baltimore and then they go to Fenway to play the Red Sox again. One week ago the Rays were eight games back in the wildcard and now the deficit is just three and a half. This is officially a playoff race.