video thumbnail

KC@TB: Longo launches a two-run shot in the sixth

ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering the season, one complete game was all James Shields wanted.

Well, Shields collected his Major League-leading eighth complete game of the year Tuesday to power the Rays to a 4-0 victory over the Royals at Tropicana Field.

"I didn't think I was going to get one complete game," he said. "I hadn't had one since 2008. ... Fortunately, for me it's been a lot. I'm really, really, happy with the way I've pitched this year and hopefully we can get a couple more here."

Since 2000, only Roy Halladay in 2010 and Mark Mulder in 2003 have had as many complete games by Aug. 9.

Shields' dominant performance also helped speed the game along -- it lasted a mere 1 hour and 53 minutes to mark the shortest nine-inning game in Rays history.

"I think a few guys started looking up at the clock, wondering if there was a stadium malfunction or something," Johnny Damon said.

But everything was functional, including Shields' game.

The right-hander struck out eight batters on his way to earning his fourth complete-game shutout and his 11th win of the season. The only blemish on his line was three walks.

"He was really throwing a lot of well-placed low fastballs," manager Joe Maddon said. "Any one of our starters, when I see the well-located down fastball, it normally means everything else is going to be working."

In Shields' 11 wins, he has allowed just seven earned runs in 92 1/3 innings pitched for a 0.68 ERA.

But the 29-year-old Shields still wasn't pleased about something following the game. He was disappointed in himself after giving up his first stolen base of the season, when Kansas City's Eric Hosmer took second in the fourth inning.

"I kind of messed up there," Shields said. "I did a high leg kick on him. I was kicking myself in the butt there after the inning because it was my first one of the year."

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria entered the game hitting .225, but he broke out for four RBIs Tuesday.

"Sometimes it's pretty evident that I'm frustrated," Longoria said. "Although I try to keep that as internal as I can, at times it's been rough. To see the extra work finally pay off and be able to contribute in a big way is a pretty big weight off my shoulders for a day."

Longoria's work with hitting coach Derek Shelton paid off as he recorded a single in the first off Royals pitcher Jeff Francis to pick up his first two RBIs of the night and give the Rays an early 2-0 advantage.

That score held for a while and Royals starter Jeff Francis settled down. After giving up Longoria's run-scoring single, the soft-throwing lefty sat down the next 15 hitters.

But in the sixth, Longoria continued his big night by crushing a pitch from Francis for a two-run shot to left-center field. He now has six home runs in his past 16 games.

"You take Longoria out of their lineup and we're still playing," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But, obviously, you can't do that."

Longoria also was part of an exceptional defensive performance Tuesday. The highlight of the night came from Desmond Jennings. As Jeff Francoeur tried to stretch a single into a double, Jennings gunned him out at second from foul territory in left field to end the sixth.

"We really feed off our defense and there were so many good moments tonight," Maddon said. "As a starting pitcher, you have to be jacked up about all the stuff our defense did tonight."

The victory helped the Rays gain some ground in the standings. After New York lost Tuesday, Tampa Bay is 8 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the American League Wild Card.

With the franchise's quickest game in their pockets, the Rays will use that extra time wisely.

"We'll take it," Damon said. "We'll get an extra hour to sleep." Comments