And with Shields rolling — he allowed one run in a complete game against Chicago on April 19 — and all-star lefty David Price as the ace, some post-season buzz seems somewhat reasonable.
Even Kyle Farnsworth seems to have filled a void in the bullpen, left vacant when former Rays closer Rafael Soriano took a pay day to be just another arm in the Evil Empire's bullpen. The Farnz has a 1.23 ERA and five saves this season.
The pitching got the Rays into the postseason in 2010. It got them to the World Series in 2008.
If Shields' performance on Easter Sunday is a sign of things to come, then get out the blue dye and clippers — Rayhawks time.
The righty never showed signs of relenting against Toronto. He tossed an efficient game.
His 95 pitches took a little longer than two hours.
His off-speed pitches were on. His 65 strikes kept the Blue Birds guessing, ending the day with seven strikeouts and two walks.
Shields surrendered one of his walks in the first inning to Toronto's Jose Bautista, who extended his streak of reaching base to 11 consecutive at-bats. No Rays pitcher had been able to get the reigning home run king out in the series.
Even Rays manager Joe Maddon said on Saturday that Bautista was from another planet.
Shields brought the slugger down to earth in the fourth inning and struck him out in the sixth. Bautista walked again in the ninth, but Shields picked him off for the second out of the inning.
Juan Rivera followed with a pop-out to catcher Kelly Shoppach, sealing Shields' shutout.
But Rays fans can't ask for heroic pitching every game.
The bats need to come alive more often.
After Zobrist's first-inning bomb, the bats died.
Streaky hitting? Sounds familiar. Last season, the Rays would either post double digits or struggle for a pair.
It's not 2008. It's not 2010.
It's 2011, and the Rays are back.