July 15, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields (33) reacts as Boston Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles (3) runs around the bases after he hit a 2-run home run in the second inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
After a three and a half hour game that felt more like six I won't be upset if everyone has to take a nap before reading this.
It was another tough outing for James Shields. The 30-year-old only managed five innings of work and wasn't particularly sharp in any of them. All told he gave up six earned runs while walking three and striking out five. This was the fifth consecutive start in which Shields has allowed four or more earned runs; the previous three he was able to last seven innings. It was able the fourth consecutive game in which he allowed 10+ hits, the longest by a Rays pitcher since the immortal Tanyon Sturtze in 2002.
It's been an up and down season for Shields. He's had nine starts that I would classify as good and 10 that I wouldn't. The BABIP is high but that's not solely a result of bad luck. He hasn't located as well as he'd like and it's showed -- you could see it today on a few batters, especially the home run to Aviles -- which has resulted in some hard hit ground balls.
Without digging into the pitch f/x data it's hard to tell if the issue is with location, sequencing, control or a combination of everything. Outside of David Price the starting pitching hasn't been particularly good of late. With the way the offense is currently structured the pitching needs to be better if they're going to keep pace in the wild card race.
The offense scored three runs in the first, teasing the crowd with a possible harbinger of good things to come, but it wasn't to be. The 9-3 hitters did their part with each of them recording at least two hits but the 4-5-6 hitters, Upton, Matsui and Keppinger, went a combined 0-10 with one walk. That's how you score just three runs on 10 hits.
Perhaps the nickname of "Big Nyquil" should be bestowed upon Beckett. In the first inning he earned a round of boo's for his glacial pace on the mound and a few Rays batters stepped out of the box to regroup themselves. Since 2007 Beckett has been the slowest pitcher in baseball with an average of 25.5 seconds between pitches. MLB should really institute a shot clock for pitchers. There's no reason someone should take that long to throw a pitch.
The Rays had their opportunities at the plate but failed to take advantage. Like I mentioned previously, Upton and Matsui went hit-less and left five and six men on base respectively. In the bottom of the 9th Matsui had a chance to tie the game with the bases loaded and two outs, but harmlessly flew out just in front of the warning track. Matt Joyce can't get back soon enough.
- Will Rhymes has a really nice game with two hits and an excellent diving stop and flip to second that began a double play.
- The same can be said for Carlos Pena. He reached base three times and made some good picks on a couple of difficult throws in the dirt.