|Rays starter James Shields avenged a July 10 loss to Yankees ace CC Sabathia. (J. Meric/Getty Images)|
Shields helps Rays hold back Yankees
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Joe Maddon perused the box score and wondered aloud how the latest stellar pitching performance by James Shields only improved the Tampa Bay All-Star’s record to one game over .500.
“How’s that possible?’’ Maddon asked after the 29-year-old righthander won for the first time in nearly a month, outpitching CC Sabathia and beating the New York Yankees, 2-1, last night. “You see Sabathia is 14-5. That’s what Shields’s record should look like.’’
Shields (9-8) allowed six hits, walked three, and struck out six over 7 2/3 innings in his second duel with Sabathia in 12 days. He lost, 1-0, to the major leagues’ wins leader July 10 at Yankee Stadium, yielding the only run on an errant pickoff throw to third base.
Run support for Shields, whose 17 starts of at least seven innings are tied for the most in the major leagues, has been an issue much of this season.
The Rays have scored two runs or fewer in 10 of his 21 starts. In his nine wins, Shields has yielded six earned runs in 76 innings - an ERA of 0.71.
“That was a good battle. It’s nice to come out with a win, especially after what happened last time we faced each other in New York,’’ Shields said. “Any time you face CC, you’re going to go through a battle. Fortunate for us, we got just enough runs to win the ball game.’’
Pitching on his 31st birthday, Sabathia lost for the first time since June 9, ending a streak of victories in seven consecutive starts. Slumping Evan Longoria homered and finished with two of the five hits off the Yankees ace. Sam Fuld drove in Tampa Bay’s second run with a fifth-inning triple.
The loss dropped New York two games behind first-place Boston in the AL East. The third-place Rays salvaged a split in the four-game series and are 5 1/2 games behind New York.
Shields ended a personal four-game skid, winning for the first time since a 5-1 complete-game victory at Houston June 24. He allowed one runner past first until the eighth, when Derek Jeter doubled for career hit No. 3,010 and scored on Robinson Cano’s double into the right field corner.
Brandon Gomes replaced Shields and got Nick Swisher to hit a first-pitch fly ball to center to end the eighth. Kyle Farnsworth worked the ninth for Tampa Bay, earning his 19th save in 22 opportunities.
Longoria began the night just 4 for 31 in his previous eight games. He hit his 12th homer with two outs in the first, added an infield hit in the fourth, and finished 2 for 2 with two walks - one intentional.
Sabathia walked four and struck out eight en route to his third complete game of the season.
Girardi tweaked his batting order for the game, moving Brett Gardner from ninth to leadoff and dropping Jeter from first to second. The change was made in part because regular No. 2 hitter Curtis Granderson was not in the starting lineup after fouling a ball off his right calf and being hit in the back with a pitch Wednesday night.
Jeter’s double lifted him into a tie with Hall of Famer Wade Boggs for 25th on the career hits list. Granderson entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh and played the last three innings in center field.
Before Longoria went deep, New York pitchers had gone eight consecutive games without allowing a home run - the longest such streak for the Yankees since another eight-game homerless stretch in 1999.