On a night that was supposed to be dominated by Carl Crawford's return to the Trop, it was James Shields who stole the show.
Considering the streak that Boston was on coming into this game - that would be a 9-0 record with nine runs per game - I don't think anyone expected them to be shut out tonight. James Shields was masterful, needing only 110 pitches in tossing his third shut out (and fourth complete game) of the season. He got himself into a jam in the first inning after allowing a lead off walk to Ellsbury and a single to Gonzalez. The bases were eventually loaded for Carl Crawford, but thankfully he grounded out to first. Shields ended up throwing 23 pitches in the first, with just 11 for strikes. He would get markedly better as the night wore on, spinning innings of 7, 6, 6, and 9 pitches to help extend his evening. Shields was helped along by the defense turning three double plays, two at the cost of Kevin Youkilis.
Shields was effective because he was able to spot his fastball. That is always going to be the case with him, as the fastball sets the tone for his gravity defying changeup. He threw 39 four seamers and 7 cutters on the evening, and even though they generated no swings and misses he was able to throw them for strikes 69.2% and 71.4% of the time. His changeup followed suit, wrecking shop for seven swing and misses on 34 offerings. I'm really enjoying this Regression Tour Shields is putting on.
On the offensive front Justin Ruggiano continued his hot hitting, collecting two hits and a home run to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. Casey Kotchman also added two hits and an RBI. The Rays didn't steal a base off of Wakefield, but they were helped out by one wild pitch and two passed balls; one allowing Evan Longoria to score.
- I believe if I were a catcher, and my team employed a knuckleballer, I'd make sure I was sick on those days.
- Johnny Damon extended his on base streak to 39 games.
- I was pleased with the initial reaction Carl Crawford received. It was a mixture of cheers and boo's, but it seemed like the cheers won out. You don't have to cheer for him anymore, but I think during his first at bat it was warranted. Good job, Rays fans.
- He may be disappointing some with his bat, but my goodness is it fun to watch Evan Longoria play third base.