Game 50: Matsui Homers But Shields Collapses as Rays Fall to White Sox

By Robbie Knopf

The curse of the one bad inning. Sometimes when pitchers lose it, they can’t it back and the hits come pouring down fast. That especially seems to be the case with James Shields. That would prove costly on Tuesday night.

With the game being scoreless in the bottom of the 4th inning, Hideki Matsui stepped up to the plate for his second plate appearance of the season for the Rays after flyout out to left the first time. White Sox starter Philip Humber hanged a first-pitch slider to Matsui in the 4th, and Matsui got all of it, drilling an electrifying no-doubt 2-run home run to give the Rays a 2-0 lead in the game. But in the top of the 5th, James Shields allowed a Dayan Viciedo single, committed an error on a pickoff play, and then an Alexei Ramirez single pulled the White Sox within 2-1. The turn of events in the 5th unnerved Shields and that proved to be the difference.

Shields walked Adam Dunn to begin the inning and two batters later, Alex Rios singled. An A.J. Pierzynski grounder got through the right side to tie the game at 2 and move Rios to third base. The Rays initially played the infield back, but after a Shields wild pitch moved Pierzynski, they played the infield in. That immediately loomed large as a Dayan Viciedo grounder just got by Elliot Johnson to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead. After an Alexei Ramirez RBI double, an Orlando Hudson single, and an Alejandro De Aza RBI groundout, suddenly it was 6-2. Cesar Ramos allowed a Viciedo homer in the 8th as the White Sox won the game 7-2.

Humber (2-2) earned his first win since his April 21st perfect game, going 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. Shields falls to 6-3 on the year after going 6 innings allowing 6 runs, 5 earned, on 10 hits, striking out 8 while walking 1. His groundout to airout ratio was 8-2. Everything was going great before the lapse in the 5th and the implosion in the 6th. The Rays had their ace going strong on the mound and suddenly he simply fell apart. What can you do?

James Shields is a fourth starter in the big leagues other than one thing: his command. When his command is on, he can dominate with his 4-pitch mix. When it’s not, you wonder how in the world he threw 10 complete games in 2011. Shields lost command of his fastball and changeup in the 6th, and he ended up allowing 3-hits on his third-best option, his slider, and only getting out of his inning with another breaking ball. These types of outings unfortunately happen for Shields. The term “quality start” is flawed, but the past two seasons, Shields has managed just two bare quality starts- 6 innings, 3 earned runs. Aces can turn in outings like that or better when they’re off. Shields can’t do that nearly as often.

The Rays look to salvage a game for the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon with Alex Cobb taking on White Sox lefty Jose Quintana in his second MLB start. The Rays have let two winnable games slip away the past two days. They can’t come away from this series empty-handed.