tampabay.com

Lump to learn from

Shields loses focus momentarily after his error and compounds his penalty.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published June 27, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - One of the reasons why Rays pitcher James Shields is one of the favorites to represent Tampa Bay in next month's All-Star Game is because of the way he has been able to remain unflappable through difficult moments on the mound.

After his start Tuesday night, Shields wanted one moment back.

The 25-year-old right-hander admittedly became rattled after making a pivotal run-scoring throwing error against the White Sox with two outs in the fifth inning, starting a decisive four-run Chicago rally, in the Rays' 6-1 loss at Tropicana Field.

"It happens so fast, " Shields said. "That's the way this game goes. As a pitcher you kind of have to back off the mound and regroup. I didn't do that tonight. I'm going to learn from this and next time I'll do it."

With a runner on first and two outs in the fifth, Sox leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik hit a sharp comebacker that hit off Shields' glove. Shields fielded the deflection but made an errant, off-balanced throw that escaped first baseman Carlos Pena and scooted into foul territory, allowing Juan Uribe to score to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead.

After that, Shields said he lost focus.

"I don't think I was focusing like I should have been, " Shields said of his concentration after the error. "You throw 107 pitches in a game and it's funny because it all comes down to four. As a starting pitcher you have to bear down through those hundred pitches."

White Sox centerfielder Andy Gonzalez took Shields' next pitch over the rightfield wall for his first major-league home run, a two-run shot. Two pitches later, Jim Thome homered to left to put Chicago up 5-0.

"It's frustrating, but I've got to get better, " Shields said. "Early in the season, I think I let up that error and I think I get out of that inning with maybe one or two runs and keep my team in the ballgame and maybe we come back."

Despite the loss, Shields struck out 11 batters, one shy of his career high.

Rays catcher Dioner Navarro said: "I think it was just that one inning. It looked like everything he threw they were hitting."

Shields has allowed six homers in his past three starts, all losses. And despite the fact that Shields leads Rays starters in wins (six), ERA (3.81) and strikeouts (100), he also left the mound Tuesday having allowed the most home runs in the majors with 18.

And after starting the season 6-0 with a 3.04 ERA in his first 13 starts, Shields is 0-3 with an 8.00 ERA in his last three starts.

"He's made some mistakes that have turned into home runs more than anything, " Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Overall, he's throwing the ball fine. The velocity is good. The changeup is good. The curveball is good. Just one of those little streaks that's unexplainable. He's going to be fine."

The Rays (33-42) fell behind 1-0 in the third inning when Uribe tripled to left-center and scored on Gonzalez's groundout two batters later.

White Sox pitcher Jon Garland limited Tampa Bay to five hits over seven innings. Greg Norton's leadoff homer in the bottom of the fifth was the only run Garland allowed.

Garland escaped a bases-loaded jam after allowing singles to Pena and Delmon Young and hitting Josh Wilson with two outs, but he struck out Akinori Iwamura swinging to end the threat.

Fast Facts:

White Sox 6, Rays 1

Quick-change Sox in the fifth

Chicago's lead went from 1-0 to 5-0 in a hurry in the fifth inning Tuesday night at The Trop, in a span of four James Shields' pitches:

1. With Jose Uribe on first, Scott Podsednik's sharp comebacker bounces off Shields' glove, and Shields throws wildly past first, allowing Uribe to score and Podsednik to second.

2. Andy Gonzalez hits a two-run homer to right-center.

3. Jim Thome takes a ball.

4. Thome homers to left.