Pitcher James Shields and the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays were viewed as Tiger bait as they walked onto the field in Detroit. After all, they were about to go against one of the best pitchers in the game. Tigers’ pitcher Justin Verlander had just won both the Cy Young and the MVP awards of the 2011 season and for the first eight innings of the game, he showed why he deserved to win those honors. Verlander was plowing through the lineup and was taking a perfect game into the fourth inning, until Jose Lobaton drew a walk. The perfect game was over, but will the Rays get a hit? The last thing Rays fans want to see is reruns of the Rays giving up another no-hitter to the opposing team on Sports Center that night. Luckily, Ben Zobrist singled in the fifth, breaking up the no-hitter. Everywhere, Rays fans exhaled in relief. Even if the Rays lost, at least they got a hit.
When the eighth inning was over, Tigers were leading 2-0 over the Rays. Tigers took the lead early in the first when Miguel Cabrera singled, Scoring Alan Jackson. The Tigers scored again in the fifth on a balk after Evan Longoria and James Shields had a miscommunication problem (Shields was going to do a pick-off attempt, but Longoria was not covering third base). Verlander took the mound in the ninth inning, picturing throwing a complete game since he had only thrown 81 times. Jeff Keppinger, hitting for Sean Rodriquez, singled to center. Desmond Jennings followed his example and hit the ball, sending Keppinger to third. Carlos Pena walked and Keppinger scored on a wild pitch (probably the fastest wild pitch I have ever seen). Evan Longoria, the man who loves these types of situations, was up. Verlander through a 100 mph ball and Longoria hit it, sending Jennings home; the game was now 2-2. Verlander was taken out of the game and replaced by Daniel Schlereth since Matt Joyce was up next. Instead, Elliot Johnson was sent out and he drew the walk; the bases were now loaded with only one out. Jose Valverde, who did not blow one save opportunity all last season, pitched to Ben Zobrist. Zobrist singled, scoring Pena and Longoria. Rays now led the game 4-2.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers had the middle of the line-up coming up, including power hitters Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Fernando Rodney, a former tiger, managed to get the next three batters out, saving the win for Shields.
Player of the Game: James Shields. Shields is coming off a rough start on opening day, but today Shields only allowed two runs, one that was earned from a balk caused by Longoria misreading a sign. Shields kept his cool throughout the game, pitching like an ace.
What I Like:
- Rays: The Rays did not give up and fought through the whole game, showing once again that baseball is played in all nine innings, not just the first eight innings. The Rays played excellent defense throughout the game, especially the ones involved in the double plays. In the ninth, the batters hit the ball or drew walks off the best pitcher in the game; one who was throwing in the high 90s at this point. The whole team did an amazing job.
- Fernando Rodney: Rodney once again entered the game and got the first three batters out. Some teams don’t even have one closer, and the Rays have two (Kyle Farnsworth is on the DL at the moment).
What I Didn’t Like:
- I heard that Lobaton was catching for Shields today because Shields had a disagreement with Jose Molina last week. Hoping they get over it soon.
- Baltimore Orioles lost after taking the New York Yankees into extra innings for the second night in a row. Poor things 😦