Daily Process: James Shields Tosses 6th Complete Game Of 2011 | The Process Report

Daily Process: James Shields Tosses 6th Complete Game Of 2011

James Shields is beyond pitching 2.0 at this point. The right-hander completed his sixth game of the season – third in a row – allowing one run on three hits and a walk in a Rays 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros. Shields added nine strikeouts to his season total, giving him 117 punch outs in 121.1 innings thrown this year. The six complete games in a season tops the franchise mark and gives Shields one more complete game this season than he had in all his previous seasons combined. And it’s still June.

True to form, Shields spotted his fastball, used his curveball often, and put hitters away with his changeup. He threw 22 first-pitch strikes to 31 batters and continued to start hitters in reverse. Over 40% of the batters he faced tonight saw something other than a fastball to start their at-bats.

Shields threw 106 pitches total with an overwhelming majority (76) of them going for strikes. He had good location of his fastball which got the hitters into swing mode on his secondary stuff. He threw a combined 61 changeups and curveballs with 48 of them going for strikes (79%) including 14 whiffs!

The Astros do not have much firepower in their lineup; however, Hunter Pence is one of the better hitters in the National League. That said, Pence was no match for Shields’ changeup despite the fact that he is right-handed and has handled off-speed pitches pretty well. Two of his four at-bats ended in whiffs on the changeup. He also flew out and grounded into a double play against another pair of off-speed pitches.

Part of the reason Shields was able to pitch on cruise control for most of the night was the early lead provided by his offense. Facing one of the more underrated pitchers in the game – Wandy Rodriguez – Tampa Bay scored five runs on eight hits including a quick strike attack that yielded four runs in the third inning.

Rodriguez struck out the first two batters of the inning, but allowed a single to Sean Rodriguez with two outs. After a swipe of second base, the Rays’ Rodriguez scored on a single by Ben Zobrist. Behind Zobrist, Evan Longoria crushed a two-run blast to left-center field to put the Rays up 3-0. I wrote about Longoria’s slump for ESPN1040 earlier in the day, and right on time, he showed signs of breaking out of the slump with a 2-4 day sans batting gloves. Four pitches after Longoria went yard, B.J. Upton blasted a solo shot off Rodriguez. The home run was reviewed, but upheld after a short check of the replay.

Although the team did not have Johnny Damon at the top of the lineup, once again it was the top of the order led the way for the Rays. Of the team’s eight hits, seven came from the top four spots including three from Rodriguez out of the leadoff spot. The 5-9 hitters in the lineup went 1-20 including an 0-4 night for James Shields with four strikeouts.

It is likely that Shields will never have another streak like he has going right now. Meanwhile, all the early season success he helped him regain status as one of the best starters in the American League – a title he quietly held from 2007-2009. His name has been mentioned as a possible sell-high candidate, but you’d be hard-pressed to find enough value to equal the production of Complete Game James right now.

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