Shields spears Marlins with another CG shutout

Casey Kotchman walked, followed by back-to-back base hits from Sean Rodriguez and Kelly Shoppach, bringing Shields to the plate in the No. 9 spot with the bases loaded.


He grounded to third in what looked like an easy double play.


Greg Dobbs mishandled the ball and then failed to tag Rodriguez on his way to third, allowing Shields to reach and Kotchman to score.


It was Shields’ second RBI of his career. Rodriguez scored behind Kotchman on a force grounder by Elliot Johnson to give Shields a two-run lead with which to work.


He only needed the one.


He provided that himself.


Just in case, Tampa Bay drove in two more in the third. Evan Longoria hit a one-out, ground-rule double to right and scored on Matt Joyce’s double behind him. Joyce easily made it home on Kotchman’s triple to left-center field.


This was a must-win in the opening set of the 2011 Citrus Series. A sweep at the hands of the Marlins would have been the fourth consecutive loss by this Rays squad, a slippery slope of confidence-killing momentum.


No worries.


“It’s tough to get swept in any series,” Shields told Todd Kalas after the game. “My job was to come in here and shut that down quick so we can move on to Detroit and get some wins over them.”


That attitude was on display through his nine business-like innings of work on the hill. Shields allowed only four baserunners in the outing; his only walk came with two outs in the ninth.


Allowing just one run in nine innings of four-hit baseball?


Dominant.


Throwing a four-hit shutout as your second complete game of the year?


Masterful.


Improving on that five starts later, blanking the Marlins with a three-hit CG?


Unbelievable.


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The Rays will continue to rack up the frequent flyer miles as they head up to Detroit to face the Tigers, completing the eight-day road trip that started last Wednesday in Toronto. After that they will get a well-earned day off before hosting the Cleveland Indians Friday evening at home.


Game one of that series? The Big Game James shirt giveaway.


A well-timed giveaway as No. 2 is stealing the show.


Believe it.

Stock photo

In the Sunshine State, visiting the city that plays host to the Heat, James Shields was on fire.

Big Game James threw his third complete game of the year for the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon, this one a three-hit shutout of the Florida Marlins, salvaging the last outing of a three-game set against the Fish with an unbelievable performance.

It’s a great PR move for Shields.

Clearly this performance was a shameless act of self-promotion in anticipation of his upcoming t-shirt giveaway later this week.

Well done, sir. Those shirts will be almost as hot as the 13 strikeouts you laid down on Miami hitters.

Shields battered Marlins batters all day with his put-away changeup in the 13-K performance, the second time this year Shields has thrown 12 or more in a game. In his 10th start, he notched his third complete game of the year, allowing four hits or less in each of those outings. Sunday’s game marked the second complete-game shutout for Shields in his last six starts.

And David Price is considered the ace.

Not bad for the No. 2 guy.

Jimmy got some early run support in the second inning.

He drove in the first run.

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