Shields silences Red Sox
Rays righty hurls a five-hit shutout
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — To a man, the Red Sox were happy to pause their nine-game win streak and take a day off on Monday. A busy schedule and the grind of travel had worn them down.
Manager Terry Francona spent some time at the hotel pool. Several players got together with their families while others hung out at a nearby mall before going out for dinner.
When the Sox returned to the business of baseball last night, something was missing: their offense.
James Shields did what few pitchers have been able to do in recent weeks and shut down the Red Sox as the Tampa Bay Rays came away with a 4-0 victory before a crowd of 20,972 at Tropicana Field.
Shields scattered five hits for his third shutout of the season. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, silencing a lineup that had hit .329 and averaged 9.2 runs in the previous nine games.
The Red Sox did not advance a runner into scoring position after the third inning.
“That was about as good a game as you’re going to see,’’ Francona said. “Not from our standpoint.’’
Shields (6-4) walked three, struck out five, and threw only 110 pitches. Outside of Adrian Gonzalez, who was 3 for 4, the Sox were 2 for 25 in a game that lasted just 2 hours and 24 minutes.
“To be able to start the series off against this team, I mean these guys are hot,’’ Shields said. “The hitters, one through nine, are solid. To be able to stop them right there was nice.’’
Shields used his changeup effectively, keeping the Sox from getting into the kind of groove they enjoyed in New York and Toronto.
“He was at his best,’’ David Ortiz said. “We had our chances early against him and let him get away. That’s not what you want to see.’’
Jacoby Ellsbury started the game by drawing a walk and went to third on a single to right field by Gonzalez.
Kevin Youkilis struck out swinging. Shields then pitched carefully to Ortiz, walking him on four pitches to get to Carl Crawford.
That strategy worked as Crawford grounded to first base in his first career plate appearance as a visiting player at the Trop. He and Shields were teammates for five years.
The Sox threatened again in the third when Ellsbury and Gonzalez singled. This time Youkilis grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Youkilis is 1 for 16 with 10 strikeouts and has grounded into two double plays with a runner on third and less than two outs this season.
Before this season, Youkilis was 52 of 120 (.433) in such situations.
J.D. Drew singled to start the fifth. After Marco Scutaro flied to center, Ellsbury hit a ball sharply up the middle. Shields deflected the ball right to Reid Brignac at shortstop. He stepped on second and threw to first to complete the double play.
Gonzalez had his third hit of the game in the fifth, a single up the middle. But Youkilis again failed, grounding into a double play. Shields pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.
“He was in complete command of that game,’’ Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Tim Wakefield (3-2) was an undeserving loser. He allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits over seven innings. On a night when the knuckleball had a mind of its own, he walked five and threw a wild pitch.
“We got outpitched today,’’ Wakefield said.
Wakefield threw 119 pitches, 71 for strikes. The 44-year-old had not thrown that many pitches since Sept. 18, 2003 when he threw 119, also against Tampa Bay.
Wakefield left trailing, 2-0. Rookie Tommy Hottovy allowed two runs in the eighth inning, giving Shields a cushion he did not need.
Wakefield took a three-hit shutout into the fifth. That ended when Justin Ruggiano jumped at a high knuckleball and sent it soaring to left field, just inside the foul pole for his third home run.
Tampa Bay made it 2-0 in the sixth without the benefit of a hit.
Wakefield walked Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman with one out. B.J. Upton then grounded to shortstop, the ball hit too slowly to convert a double play. The Sox settled for the out at second.
With John Jaso up, a knuckleball escaped the clutches of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and went to the backstop. Longoria scored on the passed ball.
Wakefield left a runner stranded at second in the seventh, keeping the Sox close. But with the way Shields was pitching, it didn’t matter.
After losing for the first time in nearly two weeks, the Red Sox took a realistic view.
“It’s going to happen,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “We’re not going to start to worry about one game.’’
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.