THE GOOD: James Shields. Don’t get us wrong. We love the complete games and shutouts. But we can’t expect those very often. If Shields is indeed better this year, we need to see a lot of games like this: 7 ip, 2 runs, 7 Ks, 1 bb and one very solo home run that didn’t come until the Rays were up 5-0. Vintage Shields…Pickoffs. Shields helped himself out a little with two pickoffs. Even more important than both pickoffs ending innings, they helped keep Shields’ pitch count in check, by saving him 6-8 pitches. He probably doesn’t make it through the 7th without those pickoffs…Casey Kotchman. It is easy to dismiss what he has done so far because he has never been this good and it has been a while since he has even been close. But if you just say he has been lucky so far, you are assuming that all the other variables are unchanged and he is the same batter he has always been. But what if the work he had done on his eyes does make a big difference? Is he still the same batter then? And if he is not the same batter, then what he did in the past means less than it would otherwise. Is he this good? No. But he may be productive after all…The Prof. That’s right! If I am going to take the blame for jinxing the bullpen in the first game of this series, then I get to take credit for the reverse-jinx on Reid Brignac who had his first extra-base in 55 games. It was a 2-run double in the Rays 4-run 2nd inning. Briggy was so surprised, he stood at the plate for a second before running. It would have been ironic if he had been thrown out at second base.
THE BAD: Brushbacks. Back in the day, the brushback pitch was actually a brushback pitch. If you thought a guy was crowding the plate or was too comfortable, you threw one up and in. Close, but you didn’t hit the guy. Hitting a batter was what you did if he needed to be taught a lesson. In his autobiography, Carl Yastrzemski said he ended up on his butt about once a game. And yet Yaz was never hit more than 4 times in a single season. In just this 3-game series, Evan Longoria was hit twice. And that is just wrong.
THE TELLING: The Rays are now alone in first base, 1 game ahead of the Yankees and 5 games ahead of the Red Sox. They have won 21 of their last 28 games…The Rays are now 11-4 when playing outside this season, and 11-11 in Domes…James Shields now has 5 pickoffs on the year, a new career-high. The team record for pickoffs is 7 by Joe Kennedy in 2002.
THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Joe Maddon on Reid Brignac keeping his head down and not knowing where his double went: “We had to yell, “Run, Forrest, run.” And then he finally took off.” [TampaBay.com]
- Remember that Evan Longoria video we posted yesterday? Marc Topkin asked Dirtbag if it was real. [TampaBay.com]
- Jerry Crasnick profiles James Shields and his resurgence. [ESPN]
- Big League Stew’s story on Brandon Guyer is longer than his stint was with the Rays. [Big League Stew]
- Dave Martinez: one of the best beards in sports history? [SI.com]
- Now that we know that Evan Longoria is not hurt too bad, is it ok to giggle at “Flying Longo”? Maybe just a little? [Flying Longo]
DOWN ON THE FARM…
- Indianapolis 9, DURHAM 6: Alex Torres was roughed for 4 runs in 5.1 innings on 7 hits and 5 walks…JP Howell was let down by his defense including his own brainfart, forgetting to cover first base. He gave up 4 unearned runs in 0.2 innings…CF Desmond Jennings hit a 3-run home run in the 9th inning.
- MONTGOMERY 6, Chattanooga 2: Joe Cruz held Chattanooga to 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. He struck out 5…SS Tim Beckham had 3 singles in 4 at bats, driving in 2. He is hitting .302.
- Brevard County 5, CHARLOTTE 2: Alex Koronis gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in 4 innings…SS Hak-Ju Lee was 1-3 with a walk.
- BOWLING GREEN 7, Fort Wayne 6 (13): After blowing leads in both the 10th and 11th innings, RF Todd Glaesmann’s second home run of the night and third of the year gave the Hot Rods the lead for good in the 13th…LF Cody Rogers hit his fifth...Braulio Lara allowed 3 runs in 6 innings..