Boston Red Sox fans whipped out their brooms Monday morning, anticipating a 4-game sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays. Too their dismay, James Shields showed up, ready to “stop the bleeding.” Shields pitched 81/3 innings in the Rays’ 1-0 victory over the Red Sox. The only concern about Shields was in the 1st inning when it took him 18 pitches to get out of the inning. In the 2nd inning, Ben Zobrist was hit and Jeff Keppinger walked; with 2 outs and 2 on Jose Molina came up to bat. Sadly, Molina was robbed by a great catch by Ryan Sweeney in right field. In the 2nd inning, the Red Sox had a man on third but Shields was able to play defense and help Carlos Pena get Nick Punto out.
In the 3rd inning, the Rays had another chance to take the lead. After Sean Rodriquez struck out, Desmond Jennings walked then stole second. Pena and Evan Longoria were up next but both ended up striking out. In the 4th inning, Ben Zobrist walked then made it to second on Matt Joyce’s single, but Keppinger hit into a double play, once again ending a Rays’ threat. Meanwhile, Shields continued to keep the Red Sox at bay, preventing the Red Sox from getting men on base.
In the 7th, the Rays scored the only run in the game; what is impressive was that it was on two outs. Rodriquez walked, Jennings singled, and Pena walked on four pitches. It was looking as though Daniel Bard was falling apart. But to the surprise of many, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine kept Bard in. In Valentine’s defense, Longoria had chased some balls and struck out twice. This time though, Longoria learned from his mistake and walked to first, scoring Rodriquez. Valentine was booed when he went back to the dugout after lifting Bard for Justin Thomas. Valentine later admitted it was a poor decision to leave Bard in.
Red Sox were ready to answer back in the 7th after Cody Ross singled on one out, but Sweeney struck out and Molina caught Ross stealing second. It was a beautiful sight, seeing Molina and Reid Brignac teaming up to catch a runner. The Rays had another chance to add more runs in the 9th inning, but failed. Luckily, the one run was all the pitching staff would need. In the 9th, Shields was able to get Mike Aviles to ground out but he walked Dustin Pedroia. Manager Joe Maddon made the call to the bullpen, allowing Fernando Rodney to enter the game for possibly his 4th save this year. Rodney was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to ground out and then he intentionally walked David Ortiz. Meanwhile, the Red Sox fans sang “Rod-ney” over and over – I didn’t get it. The hopes of the Red Sox winning the game all came down upon batter Cody Ross. Ross, after being called out on strike three, slammed his helmet on the ground and argued with home-plate umpire Larry Vanover. Aww, poor Red Sox, something didn’t go their way. That had to be the first ball-called-strike I have ever seen in favor of the Rays. With this Rays victory, Joe Maddon received his 500th win as a manager with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Player of the Game: James Shields. Shields was on his A-game for the second start in a row. He kept his cool throughout the game, dodged several broken bats, and even played defense in the infield. Shields looked confidant and made it look easy to pitch to the Red Sox. Before today’s game, Shields was 1-9 at Fenway Park, but the Rays usually scored 2.6 runs in his starts there. Today, he was able to win the game with only 1 run. It’s a great sign seeing the starting pitcher pitch like an ace and hopefully the rest of the rotation will follow his example.
What I Like:
- Pitching: James Shields and Fernando Rodney both pitched an amazing game. So far this year, the pitching has not been too special, especially since the pitchers had walked an American League high of 42 walks and had allowed a MLB high 57 runs. Before today’s game, the Rays’ pitchers had an ERA of 6.75, the highest it has been since April 2007. The Rays have one, if not the best, starting rotations in baseball so it was important for them to get back on track. Shields pitched 81/3 innings and dispersed 4 hits while Rodney has been 4-for-4 so far. .
- Stolen Bases: Desmond Jennings stole a base in the beginning of the game; the Rays had gone 7 games with a stolen base. Rays are known for their baserunning, so hopefully once B.J. Upton returns; there will be more stolen bases.
- Catching Runners: In the 7th inning, catcher Jose Molina threw the ball to Reid Brignac who tagged the Red Sox baserunner out. For the last couple of years, it was known that the Rays could steal bases, but had trouble catching base runners. It had been 123 games since Rays’ last strikeout-caught stealing double play. It was one May 24th, 2011 against Detroit; it was between pitcher Wade Davis and catcher John Jaso.
What I Didn’t Like:
- RISP: The Rays have been hitting, but they do not seem to hit when there are baserunners. In fact, they bat around .126 when there are baserunners. Today (around the 6th inning) the Rays were in a 6-for-47 (.128) slump with RISP going back to the 9th inning of Wednesday’s game against Detroit. There were 11 runners stranded today; if the Red Sox had scored 2 runs, they would of won the game and each of these stranded runners would have come back to haunt the Rays. Today the Rays were 0-7 for RISP. This was the 16th 1-0 win in Rays’ history. I am really happy they won, but the starting pitchers (especially Shields) needs more run support.
- The Rays are 3-0 when playing the Red Sox on Patriot’s Day.
- Republican President Nominee Mitt Romney and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft were both in attendance in the game. I don’t care for either, so it was an added bonus to have both men watch their baseball team lose to the Rays.
- Before Mondays game, the Rays were under .500 for the first time since last April.
- Ben Zobrist has played 246 career starts in outfield without an error, most of any active MLB player at the moment.
- Before today’s game, Rays were being outscored 31-11 by the Red Sox.
- Evan Longoria is excited to play a night game; after playing 8 straight day games. The Rays went 3-5.
- Alex Cobb was sent back down while Brandon Gomes call up.