After collecting just three hits and scoring only one run in last night's game anything the Rays did tonight was going to seem like a success. I guess nine runs on 12 hits will do just fine.
James Shields pitched very well, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out six in his 7.1 innings of work. The only real trouble he faced was in the second inning when he walked two batters in a row with two outs, but he was able to strike out Travis Snider to end any threat. Shields had his fastball and changeup working nicely, as is usually the case when Shields has success. He threw 47 fastballs for 36 strikes, and 18 changeups for 11 strikes including four swing and misses. He used the curveball and slider combo tonight, throwing them 23 and 20 times respectively. I hope the curveball helped keep the Blue Jay hitters off balance which because he only got nine strikes with it. Coming off of his worst start of the season it seems Toronto was the perfect opponent for Shields to face next. He's used them as a whipping boy this season, throwing 16.1 innings and only allowing one earned run.
The biggest story was the awakening of the offense, if only for a night. The nine runs scored and three home runs hit each tied a season high. The table was set by Ben Zobrist's lead off home run in the second inning. The Rays MVP would end up going 2-5 with that home run and two runs scored. He's been scary good this season when you consider he's signed to a pretty team friendly contract for years to come. The back nagging back injury he played through in 2010 might have been more of a hindrance than he was willing to let on.
A smattering of other players helped lead the offense tonight. Desmond Jennings hit a triple and reached twice. Casey Kotchman recorded his fifth home run of the season. Matt Joyce enjoyed a nice night, picking up three hits including a double. Rookie catcher Robinson Chirinos had the biggest night of all, launching his first career home run, a three run home run bomb, on his way to a line of 2-2, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB. The most interesting/entertaining part of the nine run outburst occurred in the second inning. After singles by B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce the Rays would execute something I haven't seen happen in a long time. They bunted three straight times and Toronto failed to record an out. Sean Rodriguez, Chirinos and Jennings couldn't of laid down better bunts. They would score two runs on balls that likely didn't go more than 200 feet total. I'm not normally a fan of laying down bunts, especially with men in scoring position, but the Rays did it perfectly.
- A few of the young players I talked about earlier in the day performed well. Along with Jennings, Rodriguez and Chirinos, lefty Jake McGee threw a scoreless inning of relief. He struck out two, getting three whiffs on seven fastballs, and nearly hit 97mph.
- Zobrist's home run ties him with Joyce and brings him within one of B.J. Upton's club lead.
- The second inning triple was Jennings' second in 42 at bats this season. Upton has one in 378.