The Rays may be having a down season in 2011, but don't tell James Shields. The Rays' ace pitched his 8th complete game and 4th shut out of the season, striking out 8 Royals hitters in the process. Shields continues to lead the league in complete games and has now tied Derek Holland of the Texas Rangers in shutouts (4) and trails only the great Cliff Lee (5).
It took Shields 117 pitches to finish the game, but he looked like he wouldn't have a chance at finishing the game during innings 3, 4, and 5. In the top of third, Shields allowed Brayan Pena to grab an uncommon lead-off walk. Mike Moustakas followed with a single to right, and the Royals looked poised to score. Fortunately, the Rays turned a difficult 4-6-3 double play and helped Shields escape.
In the fourth, Melky Cabrera got the Royals started with a single, but was then caught trying to steal second in a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. Actually, Cabrera wasn't caught stealing so much as Kelly Shoppach bent him over his knee and paddled him like a misbehaving 6-year-old.
With two outs in the inning, Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur earned walks -- the last walks Shields would allow in the game. Hosmer defied the odds, however, and actually stole a base -- the very first steal of the season off James Shields. However, Shields again ended the threat, striking out the way over-matched Johnny Giavotella.
The Royals again got two runners on in the 5th inning, only to have Shields wriggle his way out. He finished the night: 9 IP, 8 Ks, 3 BBs, and 1 more beautiful outing.
The Rays offense started early as Desmond Jennings took a pitch off his back pocket and then Johnny Damon singled him to second. The two gentlemen then proceeded to execute a handsome double steal, allowing Evan Longoria to single them home, giving the Rays a 2-0 lead in the first.
If you have an MLB.tv account, I highly recommend watching the sixth inning. In the top half, Desmond Jennings made a yell-at-the-TV amazing throw to catch Jeff Francoeur stretching a single into a double. Meanwhile, the Rays' bottom half lasted an amazing six pitches, yet they managed to score two runs. Jennings singled, then got caught stealing; then Damon singled, and Evan Longoria homered on the next pitch. Then Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman both grounded out quickly as the Rays left the inning with the game-winning 4-0 lead.
The Rays will be in action tomorrow against the Royal again, with game time slated for 6:10 p.m. ET.