9 innings, no runs, no win for Shields

The Rays waste the best of the righty's run of brilliant starts.

Published May 10, 2007

BALTIMORE - On a night when the Rays received their best starting pitching performance of the year, and continued to see one of their promising young arms blossom into one of the AL's best, not even James Shields could give them a win.

Shields, the Rays' 25-year-old right-hander, dominated the Orioles lineup through nine shutout innings, engaging in a pitcher's duel with Baltimore left-hander Erik Bedard. But reliever Brian Stokes yielded a winning homer to Aubrey Huff in the 10th, handing the Rays a numbing 1-0 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday.

"It was a great baseball game," Rays third baseman Ty Wigginton said. "It's just unfortunate the way it turned out."

For Stokes, the right-hander who Rays manager Joe Maddon boasts has the talent and moxie to be a successful late reliever, it has been a few days he'd like to forget. Five days after allowing a winning three-run homer that foiled another fine start against Oakland, he left a one-out, 1-and-1 pitch up and over the outside half of the plate. Huff sent the pitch over the left-centerfield fence and into the Orioles bullpen.

"I can't explain it," said Stokes, whose ERA rose to 7.20. "I got beat inside last time. I get beat outside this time. It's a recurring theme."

It dampened a remarkable performance by Shields, who allowed three hits, just one - a second-inning single by Huff - in his first seven innings. After Huff's hit, Shields retired the next 11 before walking Jay Gibbons to lead off the seventh. No Orioles hitter reached second base until Brian Roberts' one-out double in the ninth.

For Shields, it was his fourth straight outing of at least 7 1/3 innings, and it marked the first time in 13 months that a Rays starter had gone nine innings on the road.

"It's going to be hard for another pitcher to duplicate that," Wigginton said.

"He pitched like an ace tonight," leftfielder Carl Crawford. "That's all you can ask for."

Said Huff: "Shields was dealing. He's a guy that didn't give in tonight. Those are the kind of games where it's frustrating as a hitter."

Shields said he realized early Wednesday that the Orioles were sitting on his changeup, so he relied on his fastball throughout the night.

"This game is about adjustments," Shields said. "I've already faced them once this year so they've already seen my stuff, so we felt we should change it up a little bit."

The Rays 14-19 had their chances against Bedard, who yielded just three hits over seven innings. They had a baserunner at second in four innings but were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Rays worked the bases loaded in the 10th on singles by Rocco Baldelli, Crawford and Wigginton. But B.J. Upton, who entered the game batting an AL-leading .538 with runners in scoring position, hit a broken-bat grounder to second to end the inning.

"We had runners on throughout the game, " Baldelli said. "We didn't get those guys in when we needed to. ... You're only going to get so many chances during a game to get it done. We had those chances, and tonight we didn't get it done."

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.