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James Shields, Rays Not Following Script

by Photo of Andrew Lontos

Starting pitching has kept Tampa Bay in the race.

James Shields, Rays Not Following Script

Even though they won the American League East two of the last three seasons, no one picked the Tampa Bay Rays to even make the playoffs this year. During the offseason, Tampa Bay lost Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Rafael Soriano and 6 other relief pitchers via trade or free agency. Common knowledge was that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox would battle it out for first, and the loser would easily slide into the wild card spot. Despite the personnel losses and starting 2011 0-6, the Rays are just 2.5 games out of first place as we approach the halfway point of the season. 

They have James Shields, David Price, and Jeremy Hellickson to thank for that.

Equipped with a lineup that features Evan Longoria and not much else, Tampa Bay's starting pitching has been excellent. David Price, last year's American League Cy Young runner up, is having a solid year, posting a 3.51 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 8.5 K/9 thus far. Although his ERA is higher than last year, he's allowing less baserunners and striking out more batters. Look for Price to have a strong second half. Jeremy Hellickson is the latest young stud the Rays drafted to replace lost bigger name players. The rookie right hander has a 3.18 ERA through 15 starts. Tampa Bay's offense has only managed to score 1 run in Hellickson's last 4 starts, leaving him winless since June 4th despite pitching well. Nobody, maybe in all of baseball, has been better than James Shields. Coming off a down year in which he had a 5.18 ERA and gave up the most hits, earned runs and homeruns in the league, Shields is having a historically great season. His 2.26 ERA is great, but it's his 6 complete games and 3 shutouts that is truly exceptional. In fact, Shields has pitched a complete game in each of his last 3 starts. Shields will go for his unprecedented 4th straight complete game on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds.

Via MLB.com:

In addition to becoming the first in Rays history to have three straight complete games, he also became the first in the Major Leagues since Toronto's Pat Hentgen in 1997 to have six complete-game wins through his team's first 76 games. Shields' six complete games are twice the combined total of the Red Sox (one) and Yankees (two). 

The Rays will need their pitching to continue to carry them if they want to make the playoffs, especially because the Yankees and Red Sox will likely add pieces at the trade deadline. But such is the harsh reality for a small market team in the American League East.

Let Charged.fm get you the best seats to see the Tampa Bay Rays all season long.

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