Shields Shaky Early, Bullpen Shaky Late, Rays Lose 9-5

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 16: Shortstop Marco Scutaro #10 of the Boston Red Sox turns a double play as B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays tries to break it up during the game at Tropicana Field on July 16, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

It is a truly rare day when the Rays (50-42) score 5 runs for James Shields and still lose, but the Red Sox (56-36) were just too much today. Shields (L, 8-8) struggled to find the zone throughout the start, uncharacteristically walking 3 batters in 6 innings. He collected a dandy 8 strikeouts, but a rough 2nd and 3rd innings helped seal the Rays' fate.

The Rays jumped to an early lead and looked poised to hand John Lackey (W, 7-8) yet another rough start, but after getting up 3-0 in the first, the Rays offense went silent. The Red Sox added 2 in the 2nd, 3 in the 3rd, and 1 in the 4th, putting them up 6-3 going into the 5th.

In the bottom of the 5th, Matt Joyce took a hard foul off his right leg. The injury looked rather serious, but Joyce stayed in and homered on the next pitch. Go figure. This gave the Rays a manageable 6-4 deficit, but Dustin Pedroia added an opposite field homer in 7th, and the recent callup combo of Brandon Gomes and Jake McGee allowed another 2 runs in the 9th, pushing the Sox lead to 9-4.

Casey Kotchman tripled with one gone in the bottom of the 9th, coming home on a Longoria single, but the effort proved insufficient and the Rays lost 9-5.

Notes:

  • During the game, it seemed like Shields' cutter was betraying him, but after reviewing the Pitch F/x data, it appears his whole arsenal did him no favors today. Shields' cutter/slider combo generated only 1 swinging strike and 2 in-play outs, while allowing 3 hits. His changeup, which is usually very reliable, generated only 2 swinging strikes and no in-play outs, despite allowing 3 hits.
  • Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton, and Sam Fuld all had steals off Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Joyce had an altogether great day, going 3 for 5 with the aforementioned dinger.
  • The Rays used a combined five relievers today. Hopefully tomorrow's starter, Jeff Niemann, can repeat his great start from before the break.
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