James Shields couldn't make it four complete games in a row this afternoon as he allowed four runs in seven innings and was saddled with his first loss since June 2nd meltdown in Seattle.
While he wasn't "Complete Game James" or even "Big Game James" on this early Wednesday afternoon, Shields put together a "Pretty Darned Good Game James" performance. His line on the day: 7IP, 4ER, 7H, 2BB, 10K. His "stuff" was filthy all day, especially his curveball which generated seven swinging strikes on 23 pitches (30.43%). Of course, all it takes is one bad pitch to change a game.
With two on and two out in the fourth inning, Shields hung one of those magical curveballs to Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan, who stroked a three-run homer to left. Later in the seventh, and again with two on and two out, Shields let a 2-0 cutter catch a bit too much or the plate and Fred Lewis smacked an RBI single over shortstop. Those were really the only mistakes James Shields made on the day.
That's the most frustrating thing about Shields' performance today, before missing on those two pitches, he had worked himself out of deeper holes created to start those innings. In the fourth, Joey Votto and Scott Rolen hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but Shields came back and struck out Jay Bruce and Jonny Gomes. In the seventh, he walked both Gomes and Hanigan to lead off the inning, but Evan Loongoria made a nice play to second on a Drew Stubbs sac bunt and Shields K'd Paul Janish before giving up the single to Lewis. Juego G was dealing all day, in and out of pressure, but in the end, just missed on a few key pitches.
Offensively, the Rays scrounged together just five hits--four against maligned Cincinnati starter Edison Volquez. From the start of the game, Volquez gave off, at least to me, an Edwin Jackson vibe. He issued three walks--two to Ben Zobrist--and was "consistently inconsistent" with his control, but the Rays couldn't seem to keep the pressure on him. The big hits for the Rays came off the bats of Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. Longo dropped a one-out double down the third base line that scored Johnny Damon and Zobrist in the sixth. In the seventh inning, Upton just obliterated a baseball and sent it screaming to the deepest part of the park for a solo shot. But, alas, that's all the Rays O could muster.
Bullets after the jump:
- With a single to right in the sixth inning, Johnny Damon tied Ted Williams on the all-time hits list. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
- J.P. Howell and Juan Cruz, though unaccustomed to pitching during a James Shields start, threw two perfect innings. Howell struck out two, though one of those K's was the most gifted called strikes I've ever seen on behalf of (Guardian) Angel Hernandez. Joey Votto was none too pleased. You be the judge:
- Speaking of Joey Votto, James Shields made the reigning NL MVP look downright foolish when he picked him off of first base in the first inning. Shields timed his spin perfectly as Votto was taking an extra step and the lumberjack never even made it back to the bag. I think that gives Shields eight pickoffs on the year and is darned impressive.