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Rays 8, Oakland 0; Shields Is Still A Ray, Shields Is Still Dominant

Glad you're still here, James. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
Glad you're still here, James. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Do you know that feeling you get when you've been sitting by the phone for hours, waiting for a boy -- any boy -- to call and ask you to the school dance, and they never do?

It's not that you aren't attractive. You are. Very. Maybe there are a few prettier girls in your school, but none of them are available. Okay, one of them is available. There's this really hot midwestern chick, but she has well documented anxiety problems, and anyway, she's made it clear that she won't commit to anything after the dance. You would commit. You would stay with your date for the following two school dances too, if they wanted (but only if they wanted -- you're not clingy).

Once the slightly prettier but less dependable, corn-fed option has been asked (by a quite handsome west coast surfer suitor), you figure that the bar has been set for the type of quality guy who will take you dancing. And yet still you sit by the phone and they do not call. Maybe it's because of that zit on the side of your nose. It's been developing for a little while now, a superficial blemish marring your otherwise alluring figure. Smart guys should know that the zit will probably disappear just as suddenly as it appeared, and that they needn't worry. But maybe guys aren't smart.

You could have gotten yourself a real boyfriend while school was out over the summer. That's when most people pair off, and you cultivated the best tan you've ever had. But you figured you could live the single life a little while longer and pick up a date whenever you needed one. Maybe you were wrong.

Finally, you decide that there's nothing to do but put on your best dress, let your hair down, and dance with your girlfriends all night long. You'll make the boys who didn't ask you so jealous. You'll make them wish they had begged.

Do you know that feeling? James Shields does. James Shields looks good with his hair down.

With every single member of the Rays bullpen having pitched last night, the Rays needed a big performance from their still-untraded pitcher 1A. Big Game James did not disappoint. It was the type of performance that can make a man resort to drawn out analogy in his attempt to describe it. Shields pitched the full nine and only allowed three singles while walking no one and striking out 11 Oakland batters. He accomplished this in only 98 pitches.

He struck out Yoenis Cespedes three times, because apparently they don't make changeups like Shields's in Cuba, and he also struck out Brandon Hicks three times, just to remind Hicks, who seemed a bit cocky after his game tying home run against Price yesterday, that he's not actually good at hitting a baseball.

As for his pitch mix, it was all about the fastball and the changeup. By MLBAM classifications (via the Brooks Baseball pitch f/x tool), Shields threw 21 four seam fastballs and 31 two seam fastballs. He complemented that with 30 changeups that got 14 whiffs. That's an amazing ratio (he must have heard Steve talking in the season preview about the whiff rate on Jarrod Parker's change, and wanted to win Steve's admiration and changeup loyalty back). He only threw nine curveballs and seven cutters. I don't know if this is the pitch mix Juego G will adopt going forward, but today was one data point suggesting that he should.

As for the Rays offense, it was a case of "death by a thousand pinpricks." They banged out eight runs on two walks and 11 hits, but only two of those -- doubles by Lobaton and Joyce -- were for extra bases. Sam Fuld did some Sam Fuld things, chipping in with three hits, two of which were of the infield variety (a bouncer up the middle just over the pitcher and a tapper towards first where he beat the pitcher to the the bag).

  • After getting the last out, Shields pointed to the bullpen triumphantly. Truly fantastic timing for his first complete game of the season.
  • Along those lines, the Oakland broadcast showed an interesting stat. Last year, Shields threw the fewest pitches per inning of any starting pitcher in the league. Going into this game, he had thrown the seventh most this year. It's not news, but it's a good description of how Shields's season has gone.
  • No disrespect to Joyce, who's a perfectly fine defender in right, but an outfield of Jennings, Upton, and Fuld really is a flyball pitcher's security blanket. I had almost forgotten how good Fuld was out there. With Longo having another setback in his rehab, Joyce may spend a bit more time at DH, which is fine with me. Just another area to pick up runs on the margins.
  • In the top of the third inning, with with Lobaton on third and Fuld on first, Desmond Jennings hit a hard grounder to third that caught Lobaton in a rundown. He did well to draw it out long enough for Fuld and Jennings to advance to third and second, respectively.
  • In the same inning, after BJ had singled in Fuld to set up first and third with one out, Zobrist showed bunt on the first pitch but took it for a strike. On the next pitch, Oakland pitched out, hoping to catch the Jennings in a suicide squeeze. This happens now and again, and always makes me wonder about advance scouting. Don't opponents know that the Rays run a safety squeeze? They've never caught the Rays runner off third there, and I'll be very surprised if they do.