ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 21: Pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays yells after retiring a Minnesota Twins batter with the bases loaded April 21, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
James Shields, ladies and gentlemen.
Juego G was in big game form tonight as he pitched eight-plus innings allowing just one run on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He cruised through the Twins' lineup, only running into trouble in a bases loaded two-out sixth, but escaped the jam when Ryan Doumit lined out to a shifted Evan Longoria.
Shields spread all his pitches around tonight and induced seven swinging strikes on 119 pitches (five of those on the change-up). His eight innings were of paramount importance given the bullpen's laissez faire inclinations of late. He tried to close it out, but allowed two hits to start the ninth and was relieved by Fernando Rodney who closed out the game in dominant fashion on a sac fly and two punch-outs.
Not that James Shields much needed it, but we might as well talk about the offense which didn't exist until the sixth inning.
With one out, Carlos Pena, after falling behind 0-2, worked a walk and then advanced to second on an Evan Longoria single to center. After a Luke Scott fly-out that advanced the runners, Matt Joyce was intentionally walked to load the bases and set the table for B.J. Upton.
In just his second game of the season, Upton responded with a softly-swatted single to center that plated Pena and Longo. Twins' centerfielder, Denard Span threw to third to gun down Matt Joyce, but the ball deflected off Matty Ice and allowed him to score and for BJ to advance to third.
Some more sloppy baseball allowed the Rays their next runs in the seventh inning. Jennings singled on a bouncer to third that Danny Valencia fielded too casually to catch the speedy lead-off hitter. Ben Zobrist would then ground into what should have been an easy double play, but Jamie Carroll couldn't make the transfer and both runners were safe. Carlos Pena, once again, worked a nice AB which resulted in a hit-by-pitch. Danny Valencia would continue his sloppy play and misfield an Evan Longoria grounder and allow Desmond Jennings to cross the plate for the Rays fourth run.
Bullets after the jump...
- With the win, I don't have to think about how Carl Pavano worked over the Rays hitters for five innings. The Rays hat a shot to score in the fourth, when Jose Molina doubled (I know, right?) then advanced to third on a SRod sac bunt. Jennings attempted to squeeze Molina home, and it would have worked if it weren't for that pesky Joe Mauer charging in to catch the bunt in the air and double off Molina at third. I know it didn't work out, but I like the thought of squeezing Molina. He's like a big cuddly
- The Red Sox got to Yankees' starter Freddy Garcia early and took a 9-0 lead and
coasted to victorycompletely imploded en route to a 15-9 loss. I know it's early, but it's always nice to see the Sawks implode. Especially this year. It makes hearing about the nostalgic, historic, and patriotic anniversary of Fenway Park somewhat bearable.
- In case you were busy today, or only read about the Rays, former Rice Owl and Jeff Niemann teammate, Philip Humber threw a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners. Humber was 1-1 against the Rays last year and, despite his draft pedigree, was quite a surprise to pitch a perfecto. Feel free to make comparisons to Jeff Niemann in the comments.
- Speaking of Jeff Niemann, he takes the hill tomorrow against Francisco Liriano @ 1:40 PM. Who knows, maybe he's due for a PG, too. Maybe he'll throw four extra innings and get a PG-13. Hey, maybe he'll have his Hook back and we can be in for a pirate performance. Rrrrrrrr!