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James Shields Pitches Best Start of the Season, Rays Beat Marlins 4-0

In full honesty, I didn't get a chance to watch the game yesterday, and I'm sorely regretting it now. I know we said earlier this season that Shields pitched the best game of his career, but we need to revise that already: yesterday's game was the best start of his career. It was better than his earlier start when he struck out 12 batters, and it was more impressive than any his other complete games this season. Shields pitched like an ace yesterday, and I couldn't be more happy.

Here's his final line: 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 13 K. Shields has never struck out that many batters before in one game, and his 23 swinging strikes (18%) were also a career high. It was also his highest Game Score of his career (take that for what it's worth), and the highest Game Score by any pitcher so far this season. I try not to put undo stress on Game Score as a stat, but it at least shows that Shields' start has a legitimate case to be named the best start of the season in the majors so far.

As I didn't see the game I can't speak to Shields' pitch sequencing or pitch movement, but from looking at his game plots, he was locating his pitches exceptionally well and getting lots of swinging strikes on changeups low in the zone. Pitch location has always been Shields' downfall, so if he can keep locating his pitches like this, he'll go far this season.

Big Game James is back with a vengeance this year. He's gone at least seven innings in every start this season except one (his second of the season) and this was his third complete game and second shutout of the year, matching his career highs in both categories.

Game Notes:

  • From looking at the boxscore, Casey Kotchman had a great offensive day and helped lead the Rays by going 2-3 with a triple and a walk. And from all reports, he also looked really good at the plate: he hit hard line drives and had an impressive showing. 
  • Outside of Kotch, the only other player to get two hits was Longoria, who went 2-4 with a walk and a double. It'll take more than one day to convince me that he's broken out of his slump, but hey, it's certainly something at least.
  • Anyone have their own observations from the game? Feel free to add 'em below.