This game can best be described in two words; James Shields. That's really all the explanation one would need.
Shields was phenomenal, pitching a complete game for the second start in a row. A look at the breakdown of Shields' main pitches pretty much tells the whole story:
Four Seam Fastball: 22 thrown, 81% strikes
Changeup: 13 thrown, 76% strikes, 9 swinging strikes
Curveball: 34 thrown, 58% strikes, 4 swinging strikes
TwoSeam Fastball: 13 thrown, 61% strikes, 1 swinging strike
He was so dominant today that even the mighty Jose Bautista didn't record a hit, though he did walk twice. Shields pitched him very carefully and it paid off. It was in stark contrast to his horrifying start last season in Toronto in which he allowed six home runs. Shields continued to throw more first pitch curveballs, which has turned into an effective weapon for him. I worry teams are going to start adjusting to that, forcing Shields to adjust as well. For now, though, I'm not going to argue with the results.
As you can see by the nine swinging strikes it generated, Shields' changeup was on point. Five of his seven strikeouts were on the changeup, one so baffling that Jose Bautista nearly fell down when swinging at it. If Shields is locating his fastball, which he was today, then the changeup becomes unfair. The strikezone plot below is the at bat in which Bautista strukout. Look at pitch number six. He swung.
Shields' counterpart, Ricky Romero, was very effective after allowing the first inning home run to Ben Zobrist. Like Shields, he had his changeup working to perfection today, getting 11(!) whiffs on 28 pitches.
- Johnny Damon stayed hot, picking up two singles to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.
- Sam Fuld's legend took the Easter holiday off. He went 0-4 with 4Ks. Ouch.
- Sean Rodriguez replaced Felipe Lopez at third late in the game and made a few excellent defensive plays. Longoria is coming back soon, but it's nice to see Rodriguez's stellar infield defense extend over to third as well.
- Zobrist's homer was his team leading fifth, and his first from the right side of the plate.
- Shields' pickoff of Bautista for the second out in the ninth inning was beautiful. He has one of the better moves to first among right handed pitchers.