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Shields, Rays blank Red Sox to avoid sweep

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 03:26 AM
BOSTON -

It was the ninth inning Monday afternoon and James Shields was still on the mound. A good sign. And the Rays held the lead. An even better sign for a team that was battered during the weekend by Red Sox hitters.

Shields was everything Tampa Bay's starting pitchers weren't during the first three games of this series, which is to say aggressive, efficient and, well, good.

"It was my job to stop the bleeding," Shields said. "We had a rough three games. They were hot. They were swinging the bats pretty well. It was my job to go out there and get it done."

The result was a 1-0 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak and restored order in the Rays world, which runs on pitching, defense and just enough offense.

It was also the 500th victory for Joe Maddon as the Rays manager, making him one of only five active managers to have 500 wins with their current team.

"I'll just take the win," Maddon said, downplaying the achievement in favor of another 500 — the Rays' record 10 games into the season.

Monday's win came on a day when the temperature in Boston soared into the high 80s and with a Patriots Day game time of 11:05 a.m.

"I really liked the bounce back, 11 o'clock in the morning after losing three games in a row here," Maddon said. "A lot of teams would give up at that point. Our guys did not, pretty outstanding."

The Red Sox had scored 31 runs, a franchise record for the most runs scored in the first three home games of any season, on 39 hits in the first three games of the series.

Shields held the Red Sox to four singles in 81/3 innings. He got the first out of the ninth inning before walking Dustin Pedroia. Maddon called for Fernando Rodney.

Rodney pitched around an intentional walk to David Ortiz — the first base runner he's allowed all season — and got Cody Ross looking at strike three to save his fourth game in as many tries.

"Unbelievable," Maddon said. "We absolutely needed something like that. James did not disappoint."

The lone run came in the seventh inning when Evan Longoria took a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded from Red Sox starter Josh Bard. That followed a four-pitch walk to Carlos Peña, which loaded the bases.

Bard, a converted reliever, had thrown more than 100 pitches for the first time in his career when Peña came to bat. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had a right-hander and a left-hander warming in the bullpen, but stuck with Bard.

"Well, it was the wrong decision, obviously," Valentine said.

It was the type of game in which one wrong decision would be the difference.

Shields made sure of that.

"I think it's very important. That's what our job is to do, to stop the bleeding," Shields said. "I thought our starters threw the ball (during the weekend) a little better than what our numbers show. They were swinging the last few days. You (have) to give them credit, but our job as a starter is to shut things down."

The victory was only the second for Shields in 11 career starts at Fenway Park. He earned it by throwing all his pitches for strikes and keeping himself in a pitcher's count for most of the late morning/early afternoon.

Maddon liked what Shields did not only because he shut down a powerful lineup and pitched the team to a victory, but also because he reinforced everything Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey have been trying to impart on the young rotation: dictate the game.

"He also kind of serves as an example for the rest of the group to attack the strike zone, get after these guys, don't try to be so fine with our stuff," Maddon said.

"That's what we've not been doing. We've been tap-dancing around the strike zone we have not really pitched our typical kind of game."

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