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Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

Shields, Rays set strikeout record in style

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 01:57 PM

James Shields turned and tipped his cap to the dugout as the ball was tossed around the infield after his second inning strikeout of Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia.

It was the third strikeout of the game for Shields and 1,267th of the season for the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff, which set the American League record for strikeouts in a season. The previous mark of 1,266 was set by the 2001 Yankees.

"It was a special moment for us," Shields said. "After the game we all got together and all hugged it out. It was pretty cool."

Shields, who pitched seven shutout innings in the Rays' 12-1 victory Friday, struck out nine. Brandon Gomes and Dane De La Rosa had one each to give the Rays 11 for the night and 1,275 for the season, which is the third-most in the major leagues behind the Brewers (1,292) and the Phillies (1,279).

The Rays are only 129 behind the major-league record for a single season of 1,404 set by the 2003 Cubs.

"Our pitching staff has been the best I've ever seen in this organization," Shields said.

While the Rays offense has come to life during these past three games – 3-0 with 32 runs scored – it is the pitching that has carried the team this season.

"Obviously, with (Shields) breaking the strikeout record now more than ever people are realizing how good this pitching staff has been to us all year, and I appreciate that. We appreciate that," Evan Longoria said.

To manager Joe Maddon, the strikeout record comes as no surprise.

"We're a power staff that throws strikes," he said. "There is also power in the bullpen, among all the guys. There is a lot of power. You can talk about every one of them. They're capable of striking guys out.

"One through 12 for the entire season, you had power pitchers utilizing their fastballs and using their good other pitch off of that."