Though the effort was not as dominating as his 13-strikeout game against the Florida Marlins, James Shields‘ shutout of the Boston Red Sox may have been just as impressive. Considering Boston’s offense came in with a team OPS of .966 during their nine game win streak while scoring 83 runs over the same span, it is fair to say the degree of difficulty was a bit higher on Tuesday. Facing the league’s hottest team, the right-hander allowed five hits, three walks, and no Red Sox runner to touch home plate.
Par for the course this season, Shields painted a masterpiece in pitch selection. Throwing 110 pitches total, he used 47 fastballs (four-seam, two-seam, cut), 34 changeups, 18 curveballs, and 11 sliders. The fastball served as the set-up pitch with a 68% strike rate. From there, the changeup registered seven of the 12 swing and misses he received from Boston. He split his first pitches evenly between fastballs and non-fastballs. He threw 16 of each on the first-pitch including eight of his 18 curveballs. The ability to keep the Red Sox batters off balance resulted in five singles;pretty good considering Boston had 50 extra-base hits during the streak.
Shields also got some solid defense behind him as the Rays turned three inning-ending double plays including one started by Shields himself. With great pitching and dependable defense, the Rays also scored some against the Red Sox including a few late-inning “jug” runs.
Preparing for Tim Wakefield is pretty difficult; however, in today’s Process Versus series, there was a note on Wakefield and right-handed batters. In his career, righties have displayed good power against the knuckleball and Justin Ruggiano was living proof of that. In fourth inning, Ruggiano launched a solo blast off Wakefield – one of his two hits against him. In the eighth inning, it was two left-handed bats driving in runs for the Rays as Casey Kotchman and John Jaso gave the team some breathing room at 4-0.
The work to be done against Boston is far from over. Meanwhile, getting a fantastic starting effort to take game one of the series is a nice way to being that work. You’re up, Jeremy Hellickson.