Blog Entry

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

Posted on: October 6, 2010 5:39 pm

The fact that Texas had lost nine consecutive playoff games mattered not to Ron Washington's Rangers in kicking off this autumn's postseason Wednesday afternoon.

And with a Game 1 win now in the bag over Tampa Bay and David Price, those nine losses might as well have occurred in the 1890s rather than the 1990s.

Not only did the Rangers do what they needed to do behind ace Cliff Lee, but now they're set up to steal two games in Tropicana Field.

Rays manager Joe Maddon, always unconventional, assigned struggling James Shields (13-15, 5.18 ERA) the Game 2 start, leaving Matt Garza, the stronger alternative, to Game 3.

If the Rangers batter Shields the way they ambushed and head back to Texas with a 2-0 series lead, this series is as good as over.

The Shields move is defensible mostly by looking at his home/road splits:

In Tropicana Field, Shields is 5-7 with a not-too-stellar 4.53 ERA.

On the road, Shields is 8-8 with a coyote ugly 5.82 ERA.

Exposing Shields to The Ballpark in Arlington, a hitter's paradise that ranks seventh in the majors in home runs per game, was closer to outright suicide on the diamond than Maddon dared go.

But when Tampa Bay's hitters couldn't squeeze anything out of Lee during his uncharacteristic 24-pitch first inning, it only raised the stakes for Shields in Game 2. Granted, the tone of the inning changed dramatically when plate umpire Tim Welke called a high strike on Carlos Pena to make the count 2-2 instead of 3-1, a terrible call that hurt the Rays.

Still. In playoff baseball, you can't get yourself into position where one ball/strike call is a mortal wound. You've either got to take advantage of other opportunities, or create them.

Tampa Bay didn't. And now, the Rays are in must-win mode on Thursday.


Since: Oct 7, 2010
Posted on: October 7, 2010 12:05 pm

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

High strike?  It was not just a high strike because that call would be impossibly bad.  It was called a foul tip.  It looked like it maybe hit the bat and definitely sounded like it.

Since: Sep 24, 2008
Posted on: October 6, 2010 7:04 pm

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

Since: Oct 11, 2007
Posted on: October 6, 2010 6:12 pm

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

Really, it doesn't seem to make sense to use your 5th (or 6th) best starter in Game 2, particularly after losing Game 1. Shields has been throwing meatballs all year. The Rays better hope they can bring the wood against C.J. Wilson because they are not going to recover from a 2-0 deficit.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or