Shields brilliant in Rays' marathon
Right-hander goes nine innings in loss to O's
BALTIMORE -- James Shields figured he needed to change things up Wednesday night, which meant using the changeup less.
And the Devil Rays right-hander delivered in nine scoreless innings against the Orioles. Unfortunately, the effort wasn't enough, as the Rays took a 1-0 loss in 10 innings in front of a crowd of 14,780 at Camden Yards to drop their third consecutive game.
Former Rays regular Aubrey Huff delivered the winning hit when he connected on a fastball from Brian Stokes with one out in the 10th, depositing the baseball into the Orioles' bullpen in left-center field.
"It's all I had when I hit it, but after I saw [Nick] Markakis' ball go out of there, I didn't know whether or not I got enough of it," Huff said.
Huff's blow felt crushing in the Rays' clubhouse in light of Shields' brilliant effort.
"Yeah, [the loss] is difficult," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "When you get a pitching performance like that, you never want to waste good pitching."
The key to Shields' performance might have come in the first inning.
"I've always said the game was about adjustments," said Shields, who noted that the O's have already seen his aray of pitchers this season. "So I changed up a little bit."
Shields made handling the O's lineup look easy.
"I've seen him come up in Tampa," Huff said. "It looked to me like he's throwing his changeup for a strike more. He's not throwing his fastball right down the middle, [like] I've seen him do when he was younger. He's painting the inside [and] outside, and he's got a plus changeup. Honestly, I think it's one in the top 10 percent of the league. When he's throwing that thing for strikes and working both sides of the plate, it's really tough."
Not until Shields' final inning did an Orioles baserunner reach second base, which Brian Roberts did with his one-out double in the ninth. Shields held the O's to three hits, with one walk and four strikeouts.
I [have to] say [that] their guy did a heck of a job and pitched a great ball game. You have to tip your hat to him," O's manager Sam Perlozzo said. "Fortunately, we were equally up to the task, and held them to no runs and took it to the 10th."
Orioles starter Erik Bedard proved to be every bit Shields' equal by allowing three hits and striking out 10 in seven scoreless innings.
"Bedard was really good," Maddon said. "He had a good curveball. I've seen him good, fastball-wise, but that was his best breaking ball tonight. And in this ballpark, you're so close to home plate, you can really see it. It had a lot of depth and bite, just great spin on the ball. He really had a good curveball today, and he's always got the good fastball."
Danys Baez and Chris Ray followed Bedard, and they held the Rays scoreless in the eighth and ninth before John Parrish took over in the 10th.
Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford each singled off Parrish to bring Ty Wigginton to the plate with two outs. Wigginton got an infield hit to load the bases for B.J. Upton.
Upton brought a 10-game hitting streak into the game, and was 0-for-4 when he stepped to the plate looking to extend his streak and help the Rays win the game. But Upton grounded out to second base to end the inning.
Stokes came in to start the 10th and retired Ramon Hernandez on a flyout to center field before giving up the homer to Huff on a 1-1 pitch. On Friday night, Stokes surrendered a game-winning three run homer to Nick Swisher in the ninth inning of the A's win.
"I don't know how to explain it," Stokes said. "I got beat inside last time, and outside this time. I can't explain it. It was just a fastball a little up. ... Pitch going away from him, if he was going to beat me, he was going to beat me going away."
Stokes also gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Garko on April 22, which kept Shields from picking up a win after pitching eight strong innings. Nevertheless, Shields stuck up for Stokes.
"He's one of the best pitchers on our squad," Shields said. "He's just going through a bad time right now. He's a gamer, so he's going to come back and dominate. He's got stuff that very easily could be dominant in this league."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.