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James Shields Throws Third-Straight Complete Game, Rays Win 5-1

I don’t even know what to say anymore. James Shields’ complete game shutout against Boston was impressive as heck. Following that up against the Marlins with another complete game was remarkable. And now, throwing yet another complete game? This actually isn’t as rare an occurrence as you’d think — it’s happened 40 times since 1992, and twice just last season — but it’s still incredibly impressive.

Shields attacked the game last night much like he’s pitched in his other complete games: use his fastball early, and then break out the changeup and breaking pitches more as the game goes along. He kept his changeups low in the zone, and threw about as many changes as curveballs. Also, both his change and his curve generated 7 swinging strikes (around 20-25% for each pitch). His curveball really seems to be a huge difference for him this season — with it he has another weapon to go with his change, and it seems he’s not afraid to throw it in any count.

This complete game is Shields’ sixth on the season, meaning he’s now thrown more complete games in this season than during the entire rest of his career. He’s leading the majors in complete games, with only Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander even being close (they have four each). Shields is putting on a heck of a show these days, and if he keeps this going one more start, he starts entering rarified air that’s been entered only by Roy Halladay in recent years. Not that I’m expecting

Game Notes:

- The offense was led by the top four spots in the lineup, while the bottom half of the lineup combined to go 1-20. That lone hit? Of course, it was Kotchman roping a double. As for the top part of the lineup, it was excellent to see Longoria finally start ripping the ball; he had two hits last night, including a homerun. Could this be a sign of things to come? Fingers crossed.

- I have to admit, I was skeptical of Rodriguez hitting leadoff, even with his improved plate discipline this season. But he had a great night, going 3-4 and stealing a base. It also seems he made the pitcher work deeper into the count each time, so hey, good job S-Rod.

- B.J. Upton had his 9th homerun and 20th stolen base of the year. It’s looking like he’s going to be right around the 20/40 mark like last season, assuming he keeps it up.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.