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One Pitch: James Shields Takes The Loss Vs. Felix Hernandez in 1-0 Duel

I hate wasting good starting pitching. I really hate wasting great starting pitching, and that's exactly what the Rays did tonight. Coming into this game James Shields said his arm was feeling much better after battling a "dead arm" for the first few weeks; he wasn't lying. While Shields does have a seven inning shutout victory against the Orioles, you could argue that tonight was the best James Shields we've seen in 2009.

Now, I could sit here and complain about the lack of offense, but that would be an injustice to Mr. Shields. Unlike previous starts where Shields worked off a four seam fastball around 50% of the time, he only used the fastball 31% tonight and did a masterful job of mixing in his changeup (22%) and a fantastic curveball (24%) which he actually threw more than his change.

Shields had magnificent break on his curveball. Overall, he has a swinging strike percentage of 11.7% on the night with over half of those swings and misses coming off the curveball. He threw 67% of his 102 pitches for strikes. Up until tonight, the curve has been the fourth pitch for him, but after the results from tonight we may see an increase in the amount of breaking balls for Shields.

Velocity wise he was around 91 mph on the fastball and even reached 93 at one point. For comparison, in his last start Shields averaged 89 mph on the fastball and maxed out at 91. This is a very good sign and hopefully the "dead arm" phase is over with and we can continue to get this type of effort from Shields. With his velocity up around 91-92, the separation in speed on his secondary pitches makes them much more effective. Tonight, Shields had about an eight mile different from four seam to changeup and a 15 mile difference on his curveball.

Unfortunately for Big Game James, it just wasn't his night. The Rays like the Mariners could only put four hits on the board and while the Mariners committed three errors in the field, the Rays could not capitalize off of Felix Hernandez. Hernandez ended up being just one pitch better than Shields and dominated the Rays lineup for seven innings of his own. On the night, Shields would be the loser even though his box score line reads like this:

Tampa Bay









Shields (L, 2-2)










And one mistake.