There was speed standing on second base, representing the tying run in the top of the ninth. James Shields had just used his 100th pitch, a nasty slider, to strike out the lumbering White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn. His 101st pitch to the man who could represent the 27th out was a 4 seam fastball away which was fouled off. He went with a breaking ball next, and Paul Konerko pulled the curveball foul. Another fastball away, another foul ball. He would go to his best pitch next: the changeup. Konerko fought it off like the veteran he is.
On the fifth pitch of the at bat, James Shields threw a 93 MPH fastball high and Paul Konerko treated the fans sitting past the first base dugout with a gentle breeze in becoming the ninth strikeout victim of a man who was clearly on top of his game.
It was James Shields’s first complete game since June 10th, 2008, against the Anaheim Angels, and all of his pitches were in top form. He walked just one, gave up one run on just four hits, and generated weak contact and paltry pop-ups throughout the game.
He continued a streak of fine pitching from Rays starters, becoming the 7th in a row to throw at least 7 innings. He was the first of the year to go the distance.
The Rays offense once again generated just enough run support to give the Rays a win, their 7th in their last 8 games. Ben Zobrist's triple in the bottom of the 1st led to the team’s first run, and he would be driven in by a 3-bagger from Sean Rodriguez in the 5th inning to account for the Rays’ 2 runs.
The defense was on point as well, with yet more diving stops in the outfield. Tonight was Matt Joyce’s turn to flash the leather, making a diving catch along the right-field line to rob Juan Pierre of extra bases. Kelly Shoppach had a promising night behind the plate, throwing out Alexei Ramirez by at least 5 feet and picking off a dozing Konerko at 1st base to complete a strike ‘em out pick ‘em off double play in the 7th.
But James Shields was the story of the game, dominating the White Sox lineup and surpassing the 1000 inning mark in his Rays career. With Shields pitching as he did, and the swift-of-pitch John Danks going for the Sox, the game only took 2 hours and 12 minutes, giving the satisfied crowd leave to head home before 9 p.m.