08/26/09 12:17 AM ET
Shields earns support he richly deserves
Pena goes deep twice, hits 200th career HR in Rays' win
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
First he thanked all of his fellow starters for their support. Yes, Shields had taken his share of grief for being the team's No. 1 starter and having his win total. Then he smiled. He's experienced a frustrating season to date, and smiling after a game felt good for a change.
Shields received some welcome run support Tuesday night from a Carlos Pena-driven offense as the Rays took a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays with 17,307 watching at Rogers Centre. In addition to locking up a series win against the Blue Jays -- the Rays' fifth consecutive series win against their north-of-the-border division rivals -- the win moved the Rays to 2-0 on their road trip and allowed them to remain three games behind the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card race.
"Yeah it is [good to be smiling]," said Shields, who won for just the second time in his last 11 starts. "It was a good team effort tonight. These guys came out banging, and they did a great job of getting runs early and letting me do my thing."
Rays manager Joe Maddon appreciated Shields' effort.
"I really liked the way Shields battled through one of the nights where he really didn't have his best stuff," said Maddon, noting that Shields' velocity was down and he fought through some mechanical issues.
After the Rays' offense scored six runs in the first three innings, Shields, who is the starter with the least amount of run support this season, gave the Rays 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three runs on eight hits.
"I don't know what it was," Shields said. "I didn't feel right, and I battled through it. It was just kind of one of those days where you don't really have anything. But the team getting some runs early kind of gave me some confidence to throw strikes and get hitters out early."
Shields, who has had plenty of outings this season when he pitched well enough to win but didn't, said of the evening-out process, "That's baseball."
"That's the life of baseball," Shields said. "Some days you're not going to feel good at all [and win], and others you're going to feel great and lose. Like I said, a good team effort tonight, and hopefully we can come out tomorrow and sweep these guys."
Pena led the offense with two home runs, giving him 37 for the season and 200 for his career.
"Those two balls he hit were no-doubters," Shields said. "I'm really happy for him right now."
The first of Pena's blasts came in the form of a two-run shot in second inning off Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. An inning later Pena hit his second homer off Cecil, which also was a two-run shot, to put the Rays up, 6-1.
"If you hang some pitches to him, he can get after you," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "That's what happened tonight."
Pena now has 11 home runs in August, which leaves him two short of his club record for home runs in a single month. He set the record in 2007 when he hit 13 in September. August has been good to Pena as he's hit a combined total of 28 home runs in the month the last three years. That total is the highest of any player in the Major Leagues.
"Guys like him are normally a bit streaky," Maddon said. "You don't normally see it steady through the course of the year. Those numbers can be clumpy. ... It's just who he is and what he is. And we'll take it. He seems to pick the right times to get hot."
Pena would not agree with the assessment that he is currently locked in when he steps into the batter's box.
"Let's say, in the process of becoming better," Pena said. "That's what I always keep on saying. And I have so much to improve, and I want to keep it going. I want to keep on working hard and just make that improvement steady. That's how I look at it."
Pena now has four multihomer games for the season, which ties the club record he holds with Jorge Cantu. As a Ray, he has homered more at Rogers Centre (10) over the past three years than any other opposing park.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.