ST. PETERSBURG -- What did it take to finally cool off the scalding Red Sox bats? A masterpiece from James Shields.
Stymied by the right-hander, the Red Sox saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end, enduring a 4-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
"These guys are hot," said Shields. "The hitters, one through nine, are solid. To be able to stop them right there was nice."
Shields went the distance, allowing five hits and pitching his third complete-game shutout of the season.
"Shields -- that's about as good a game as you're going to see," said manager Terry Francona. "Not from our standpoint, but the way he pitched. He threw his changeup and established that with enough velocity on his fastball and a breaking ball, and he tied us up."
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield did everything he could to give his team a chance to win, throwing 119 pitches, his most in a start since Sept. 18, 2003, when he threw that same number against the Rays.
"I felt great," Wakefield said. "I felt like I still could go. Obviously the pitch count's going to keep me from going back there in the eighth, but I was thankful Tito gave me an opportunity to try to pitch out of that inning, and I was able to do so."
Over seven innings, Wakefield gave up four hits and two runs, one of which was earned. He walked five and struck out two.
"I didn't really see a reason to take him out. He was getting them out," said Francona.
Other than the impressive pitchers' duel, the other storyline was the return of Carl Crawford to Tropicana Field. Playing under that roof as a visitor for the first time, Crawford went 0-for-3.
"You know, it was cool," Crawford said. "There were a few cheers, a few boos, I guess it was mixed emotions out there."
Meanwhile, Wakefield and Shields pitched to a scoreless standoff over the first four innings. It was Wakefield who blinked first, as Jason Ruggiano jumped on a first-pitch knuckleball for a solo homer with one out in the fifth.
Nobody could have predicted it at the time, but that one pitch was the game.
"Only two balls really got hit hard, the double that [Johnny] Damon hit and that homer," said Wakefield. "Other than that, I'd say the difference in the game was the homer. It's one of those nights where we got outpitched."
An inning later, Wakefield hurt himself by walking Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman back to back. After a fielder's-choice grounder by B.J. Upton, the Rays pushed another run across when Jarrod Saltalamacchia's second passed ball of the inning allowed Longoria to score.
"You're going to run into that," Saltalamacchia said. "It was a pitch that was away. Both of them were away. I thought they were going to come back a little further. It just hit off my glove. That's to be expected. Obviously you want to stop everything."
Offensively, the Red Sox couldn't get much started. They loaded the bases with two outs in the first, and that's when Crawford appeared in his first at-bat at Tropicana Field since signing with the Red Sox.
The left fielder received a standing ovation -- there were some boos mixed in -- before grounding to first. Little did anyone know it at the time, but it was perhaps the best scoring opportunity Boston had all night.
"It was nice to get it out of the way," Crawford said. "I got a chance to see everybody today. The fans that didn't like me had a chance to do what they wanted to do. [It's] just nice to go ahead and put that behind me."
There was another promising opportunity in the third, as Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single and Adrian Gonzalez smashed a one-out single up the middle. But Kevin Youkilis hit into a double play, and the threat was over. Youkilis also ended the sixth with a double-play grounder.
"I feel like we always still have a chance the way our offense has been swinging it, but we ran into someone who had his 'A' game tonight and was able to keep our hitters off balance for the whole night," said Wakefield.
At least to Crawford, it was no surprise to see what Shields did.
"I know those guys over there, whenever the Red Sox are in town, they take it up a notch," Crawford said. "I expected him to pitch one of his best games, and he did."