Chew on this, Rays fans.
In the last three years teams that won the first game of an division series are 12-0. Since 1994 those same teams are 21-4. Uh oh.â†µ
The Tampa Bay Rays have dug themselves an early hole by losing game one yesterday 5-1 to Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers in front of a raucous Trop crowd. I'll refrain from the requisite "embarrassing" and "disheartening" jabs today, because by all accounts Cliff Lee is the best pitcher in baseball not named Halladay; if you're going to lose a game this series, and I don't think many thought we would sweep, it may as well be to Lee.â†µ
But if the Rays want to have any chance of getting back in this series they will have to hang their hopes on the embattled James Shields. The same James Shields that if fans picked the rotation would probably be watching the ALDS from his couch. The same James Shields that leads the American League in Home Runs, and all of baseball in Hits. Uh oh.â†µ
Here's the good news: Shields is significantly better at home where he will pitch today. I'm far more comfortable with James in the Trop than the homerun launching pad that is the Ballpark at Arlington. Shields has also pitched well against the Rangers this year, and I believe his changeup driven approach will stymie a mostly right handed fastball hitting team like Texas. He has playoff experience which may help him be prepared, and if anyone can pull a gem out of his hat I think its Shields.
Evan Longoria called it a "must win" and that might be an understatement.
Its time for James Shields to live up to his moniker. Its time to be Big Game James. The Rays need a gem from Shields today more than ever.