Shields Shines, Rays Win 2-1 in 'Wild' 10th

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 30: Outfielder Matt Joyce #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays scores the game winning run in the tenth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Tropicana Field on April 30, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

When Angels' pitcher Fernando Rodney bounced a 2-2 change-up in the dirt, Matt Joyce scampered home and never looked back. It wasn't a literal 'walk-off', but it was pretty darned close. Let's call it a 'jog-off.'

If you're looking for the Rays offensive highlights from today's game, you need look no further than Matt "Ulysses" Joyce. He drove in the Rays only RBI of the day (himself) on a solo homer in the fifth inning and doubled then scored on Rodney's aforementioned 52-foot wild pitch in the tenth. It was Joyce's second game in a row with a homer, in case you forgot yesterday's. The rest of the offense was held to just five hits against Angels pitching and just three off of Angels starter Joel Pineiro. Pinero's line on the day, 7IP, 1ER, 4H, 1BB, 3K, would have stolen the show if it weren't for James Shields.

By recent standards, Shields' start today was sub-par. A final line of 8+IP, 1ER, 6H, 1BB, and 12K would normally be well received, but since Shields could not throw a complete game today to stretch his CG-streak to three, his start today was a failure. It looks like regression has finally struck the pitcher we had just begun to call Complete Game James, and if he's only going to go eight innings and strike out twelve every start, then we might as well just DFA him and his enormous contract.

Location

via www.brooksbaseball.net

Kidding aside, Shields was downright nasty today, generating 16 swing strikes on 109 pitches (14.7%). Many of his pitches were near the heart of the strike zone (re: 'hittable'), but he was able to effectively change speeds and keep the Angels bats off-balance. I'm never a big fan of those yellow dots up in the zone, but when it's working, it's working.

To the ninth... after the jump

It wasn't as if Shields didn't try for that third complete game in a row. Having thrown around 100 pitched through eight innings, Shields trotted out to close up the ninth with the Rays leading 1-0. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter fouled off several good pitches before he smacked a 'hung' change-up to left for a leadoff double. And just like that, Shields' day was done. Kyle Farnsworth entered in an attempt to save the game, but was unable to keep Hunter from scoring thanks to a bit of a bobble/double-clutch from second baseman Ben Zobrist on a Howie Kendrick ground ball.  Of course it was Howie Kendrick. The guy can do no wrong against the Rays. Think Vladimir-Guerrero-against-the-Rangers type success. Farnsworth was saddled with his first "blown save" of the year, but, really, he did his job perfectly. 

Kelly Shoppach is a "Roller Coaster of Emotion."

  • His numbers at the plate have been atrocious. What numbers? I don't care, advanced metrics or batting average, take your pick. He's been bad. 
  • On the other hand he's had success throwing attempted base-stealers out. Today, he gunned down Angels' speedster Peter Bourjos at second. That's good. 
  • Still, there are plays like today when Shoppach struck out looking with men on first and third and one out. Not getting the man in, that isn't great, but it doesn't bother me too much. What blows my mind is that with Lopez stealing second, Shoppach got called for batter's interference. It wasn't as if Shoppach swung out of his shoes and fell over the plate to cause interference. No, he was called out on strikes and then decided to take a casual stroll across the plate back to the dugout while Lopez was stealing.    
  • Then again, he's handled James Shields' last few brilliant starts. Would Shields have pitched as well with Jaso behind the dish? Maybe, but I think Shoppach has had a bit to do with Shields' success.

Like I said, "Roller Coaster of Emotion."  One bonus point to the first person to photoshop this.

  • Sam Fuld now knows what Jenna Jameson (not linking this) feels like, as he took a ball to the face while attempting a bunt in the ninth. The Tiny-Spartan-Warrior would show his true grit and grow his legend as he toughed it out and... struck out bunting foul.  #LegendofSamFuld
  • Tomorrow's game is scheduled for 1:40 PM. Looks to be Jered Weaver vs. Alex Cobb, who's fresh up from Durham. Jake McGee gets to make the trip down. I know it's corny, but let's just hope Cobb doesn't get all excited and Ty one on tonight and get buttered up tomorrow. 
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