07/01/07 6:25 PM ET
Rays unable to stop skid
Shields solid, but Tampa Bay edged by Cleveland
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The Rays suffered their season-high seventh consecutive loss, with seven games remaining on the current road trip before the All-Star break.
In the late innings of last Sunday's game against the Dodgers, a ball ricocheted off Ty Wigginton's glove at first base and went to Josh Wilson at second, who threw to Jay Witasick covering at first for the out. On Sunday, first baseman Carlos Pena was unable to handle Travis Hafner's grounder with no outs in the sixth. The ball deflected toward Wilson at second, who grabbed the ball and threw to James Shields covering at first. Unfortunately for the Rays, the throw arrived behind Shields and got away, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
"I saw it. I had a really good angle with it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was a tougher throw, I think, for Josh this time. It came up off Carlos' chest. We tried to make the play. We didn't make it this time."
A dejected Shields said he wasn't frustrated by what happened.
"Those things happen," Shields said. "You just have to keep pitching. I'm glad I got out of the inning with just one run. It could have been a lot worse. I had no outs, first and third."
Grady Sizemore's RBI single in the seventh off Casey Fossum pushed the Indians' lead to 3-1, and just like that, another quality start by Shields went down the drain.
The Rays right-hander had to reach down for something extra in the early going when the Indians loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter with no outs. Shields then struck out the next three hitters to end the threat.
"He did a nice job of getting out of that," Maddon said. "[He] kept his composure [and] made good pitches. Striking out the side is pretty unbelievable at that juncture."
Shields began the third by striking out the first two batters, running his strikeout streak to five, but Jhonny Peralta homered on a 2-0 pitch to tie the score at 1. Shields never seemed rattled. Even though his pitch count was high early, he settled into a nice groove before getting taken out of the game with one out in the seventh after Ben Francisco doubled.
"He just kept his composure throughout the entire game," Maddon said. "When he went out there for the last inning, I told him he had 10 pitches to get it done."
Shields, who struck out 12 Indians in eight innings April 22, struck out 10 Sunday.
"You know these guys are just hackers," Shields said. "They swing, and they swing often. And ... they're a great hitting team. I mean, their approach is a nice approach. I just tried to execute my pitches. ... I was getting a lot of swings and misses with the cutter. My changeup was there, and my curve was pretty good."
Pena broke a seven-game homerless streak in the second inning when he hit a 3-1 pitch from Indians starter Cliff Lee 399 feet into the right-field stands to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Lee went on to pitch through the eighth, limiting the Rays to one run on four hits while striking out nine.
Joe Borowski started the ninth for the Indians, and the Rays tried to mount a comeback. American League All-Star Carl Crawford led off with a single, moved to third on Wigginton's single and scored on Delmon Young's sacrifice fly.
Maddon inserted Dustan Mohr as a pinch-runner for Wigginton, but Mohr was thrown out trying to steal second base for the second out. Maddon went onto the field to argue the call, but replays validated the call.
"Their guy pitched really well; our guy pitched really well," Maddon said. "It was a well-fought game. They just got us at the end."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.