Shields gave up 12 hits and six earned runs to one of the worst teams in the league, but considering whether he is worthy of the postseason goes beyond one ill-timed bad outing.
He is 13-15 for one of the best teams in baseball with an ERA of 5.18. It’s not looking good for his chances.
Earlier this week, he said he feels he should be part of the postseason rotation. He has the Rays’ only World Series win among his postseason experience.
Unfortunately, Shields’ history is about all he’s got going for him.
In addition to being two games under .500, Shields has lost his last three starts to make his record in September 2-4.
Granted, the Rays didn’t score any runs Friday night but run support has hardly been a problem for Shields this season.
He averages 4.63 runs of support per outing and the Rays have scored at least three runs in each of Shields’ 13 wins.
He has gotten zero or one runs of support five of his 15 losses.
So you can’t necessarily blame the team around him like you can for Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in the American League Cy Young race.
For the most part, the Rays have done their jobs and Shields hasn’t been able to keep up his end.
Miraculously, Jeff Niemann, who was a shell of his former self in five starts off the disabled list, has looked like the Niemann of old in his last two and is no longer the automatic cast-off for the postseason.
Niemann is 1-1 in his last two starts and has given up 11 hits and five earned runs while striking out seven and walking two.
The only two certainties on the postseason rotation are David Price and Matt Garza. If the Rays take three pitchers, that leaves one spot between Shields, Niemann and Wade Davis, who has also been solid. Or if they take four two of the three will get in.
But Shields has not performed well lately and over the course of the season. It seems he needs at least three runs, and in most cases more than that, in order to earn the win.
That’s hard to do in the postseason and it’s been hard for the Rays to do as of late. The Rays are 1-5 so far this week and have scored nine runs in those six games.
The Rays’ bats are seemingly a whole other issue right now but in the postseason pitchers can’t expect to get a lot of run support. The pitchers should be able to out-duel their counterparts in low-scoring, tight games and Shields hasn’t proven with his numbers that he is worthy of the task.