James Shields pitches during the first inning at Tropicana Field. (Photo courtesy of Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
James Shields pitches during the first inning at Tropicana Field. (Photo courtesy of Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

I tried bargaining with the baseball gods, ahead of the series opener last night. My bargain: Allow Tampa Bay to win a close game, and let James Shields to walk away from The Trop with a quality seven inning, no-decision under his belt. The plan seemed like a win/win to me. However, neither the baseball gods nor James Shields accepted my very reasonable bargain. In the end, despite the very good start by Jake Odorizzi, Big Game James was downright dominant in his seven inning homecoming, slashing 7 IP/3 H/0 R/1 BB/10 K on 103 pitches (64 strikes). Truth be told, with a pair of winnable games remaining in the series, I’m not that broken up over the loss — well, with the exception of Juan-Carlos Oviedo’s fart-on-a-snare-drum worthy two innings of work. In the end, Tampa Bay fell to Kansas City by a score of 6-0.

A couple of bulleted game peripherals follow:

  • Kevin Kiermaier has definitely been a spark plug for the Rays, however, we shouldn’t forget that he is still a rookie who could use some work. Take his third inning throwing gaffe for example. Kiermaier made a dynamic play, stopping a ball from reaching the wall just shy of the bullpen; an excellent play by all accounts. But then, after a spin of sorts, he fired the ball as hard as he could — well wide of third base — allowing Alex Gordon to reach second on (what was scored) a single. In the bottom of the inning Kiermaier reached second base on a double that shouldn’t have been. But in the next at-bat he ran to third on a grounder to short (which was well in front of him) that Alcides Escobar could have thrown him out on. Lucky for Kiermaier, Escobar as in the process of planting his back foot ahead of a throw to first. Finally, he erred on a hit to right in the eighth which allowed a runner to reach third, leading to another run.
  • Odorizzi, Shields, and Oviedo are all fastball/changeup pitchers. Where Odorizzi and Shields’ off-speed stuff broke nicely, adding depth to their pitches, Oviedo’s did not. Oviedo allowed four runs on seven hits, and his usually lively change ups were flat and very hittable.

The New What Next

The Rays were able to bounce back from an ugly loss against Max Scherzer last Thursday, by beating up on Drew Smyly to the tune of five runs in 5-1/3 innings of work Friday. That is, we know the Rays are capable of brushing an ugly loss off their shoulders. They’ll attempt to prove their mettle tonight against Jason Vargas and the Royals, countering with Jeremy Hellickson. Hellboy will try to use his solid 2 R/5.2 IP outing with Durham as a springboard in this, his first official start of the 2014 season. The Rays lone win against the Royals this season came with Jason Vargas on the mound. However, that win had little to do with Vargas who was very good in his 8 IP/4 H/1 ER start. Vargas has been charged with three or more runs five times since, including three less-than quality starts. Still, the left handed fastball/curve ball/changeup pitcher has historically been very tough against Tampa Bay, boasting a 2.59 ERA in his last three starts against the Rays. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 7/8/14 Starting Lineup

Jennings CF
Zobrist SS
Guyer LF
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Forsythe 2B
Rodriguez DH
Hanigan C
Kiermaier RF
Hellickson RHP


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