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Opportunistic Angels make Rays pay for their series of sins
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 17, 2006
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Devil Rays rookie starter James Shields knows he has a good changeup. The problem is the rest of the American League knows it, too.
The Rays have been encouraging Shields to throw his changeup less frequently and his fastball more often, and Shields said he is working on it.
But it was a changeup that cost him in Saturday night's 9-2 loss to the Angels, as rookie catcher Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning that put the Angels ahead to stay. Napoli seemed to know what he was looking for.
"His changeup's good," Napoli said Sunday. "I just think when hitters are able to look for one pitch, he might be throwing it too much. You can wait for it. He's got a good enough fastball."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Shields is doing a better job of making his fastball his primary pitch.
It's obvious he has to make some type of adjustment; after winning four consecutive starts, he has gone four games without a win, going 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA and allowing 30 hits in 22 innings.
"I like the way he utilized his fastball better, and the changeup was an even better pitch," Maddon said. "There's still some things to brush up upon, but there's a lot to look forward to."
The score was 4-2 when Shields left with two on in the seventh, but the Angels quickly extended their lead.
Maddon made one bad move, ordering reliever Chad Harville to walk Maicer Izturis to load the bases with one out, hoping Orlando Cabrera would hit into a double play. He didn't, which meant Vladimir Guerrero got a chance to hit, and Harville made his mistake, giving up a grand slam by throwing what he called a "horse- - - - hanging slider to one of the best hitters in the game."