ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Big Game James. That’s quite a nickname for a pitcher with 32 major league wins.
James Shields definitely deserved it Thursday night.
Shields stymied the slumping Philadelphia Phillies, rookie David Price got the final seven outs and the plucky Tampa Bay Rays rebounded from a rare home loss with a 4-2 victory that tied the World Series at 1-all.
“It was kind of a joke at first,” Shields said. “I ended up pitching a couple of good games in the minor leagues and they say my whole organization is calling me ‘Big Game.’ They don’t call me by my first name anymore.”
After dropping the opener to ace Cole Hamels and the Phillies, the young Rays earned their first World Series win with help from a squeeze play and a checked swing.
Tampa Bay never really got a huge hit, but neither did the Phillies as Jimmy Rollins & crew fell to 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
“That might be one of our sloppiest games all year,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’m concerned about us hitting with guys on base, because it looks like at times we might be trying a little too hard. But we can fix that.”
The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Saturday night, though rain is in the forecast. ALCS MVP Matt Garza is scheduled to pitch for Tampa Bay against 45-year-old Jamie Moyer, making his World Series debut.
“We came in here knowing it’s going to be a tight series,” Rays outfielder B.J. Upton said. “Both clubs are a lot alike.”
The Rays scored on Jason Bartlett’s safety squeeze and built another rally when Rocco Baldelli walked on a checked swing that seemed to confuse players and umpires alike.
Shields pitched shutout ball into the sixth, working out of trouble just as Hamels did for a 3-2 win Wednesday night. Tampa Bay is 5-3 at home in the postseason after going a major league-best 57-24 during the season.
“I didn’t feel too much pressure,” Shields said. “The guys in the clubhouse were real relaxed before the game.”
The 23-year-old Price, called up in September after he was the top pick in last year’s draft, struck out slugger Ryan Howard with two on to end the seventh.
The hard-throwing lefty gave up a pinch-hit homer to Eric Bruntlett in the eighth, then stayed on to close it out against Philadelphia’s big boppers.
Ruiz scored when third baseman Evan Longoria booted Jayson Werth’s grounder for an error, but Price fanned Chase Utley and got Howard on a game-ending grounder.
“I was nervous — very,” Price said. “I usually don’t even sweat out there and my hat looks like I went swimming with it.”
Philadelphia’s lone hit with runners in scoring position was Shane Victorino’s infield single in the fourth, and that didn’t even produce a run.
Living up to his catchy moniker, Shields outpitched Brett Myers. Baldelli thwarted a potential Phillies rally with a strong throw, and Tampa Bay took advantage of two costly mistakes by Werth.
Shields usually flourishes at home, where he was 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA during the season. All four of his postseason starts have come at Tropicana Field, including a win over the Chicago White Sox in Tampa Bay’s first playoff game and two tough losses to Boston in the ALCS.
“You feel pretty comfortable when he goes out there under those circumstances,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s kind of a misconception. We’re starting to play our first big games now, and he’s pitching the same now as when the big game was trying to prevent somebody else from getting to the playoffs.”
A 14-game winner during the season, Shields looked surprised when he was pulled in the sixth after 104 pitches. He doffed his cap to the crowd, and Dan Wheeler retired Pedro Feliz on an inning-ending grounder with runners at the corners.
The Phillies had a chance to rally in the fifth after putting two on with one out. Utley hit a looper to right that was caught on the run by Baldelli, who fired to first behind Werth for an inning-ending double play.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
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