ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – James Shields pitched his AL-leading third shutout of the season, cooling Boston’s red-hot offense and helping the Tampa Bay Rays end the first-place Red Sox’s nine-game winning streak with a 4-0 victory on Tuesday night.
In addition to cutting into their deficit in the AL East standings, the third-place Rays ruined a Tropicana Field homecoming for Carl Crawford, their ex-teammate who signed a $142 million, seven-year contract with Boston after helping Tampa Bay win the division two of the past three seasons.
Crawford went 0 for 3 with one strikeout against Shields (6-4), who allowed five hits, walked three and struck out five en route to his AL-leading fourth complete game. He grounded out with the bases loaded in the first and fouled out in the fourth.
Crawford spoke to WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jonny Miller after the game:
Justin Ruggiano homered off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (3-2) in the fifth. Tampa Bay added an unearned run without getting a hit in the sixth, when Evan Longoria walked and eventually scored from third on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s second passed ball of the inning. Casey Kotchman and John Jaso drove in runs charged to reliever Tommy Hottovy in the eighth.
The Red Sox outscored the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays 83-36 during Boston’s longest winning streak in the majors this year. The Rays cooled them despite getting just four hits off Wakefield, who also walked five and struck out two in seven innings.
Crawford was a four-time All-Star in nine seasons with the Rays. He was the longest-tenured player in the franchise’s relatively brief history and is the team’s career leader in batting average (.296), RBIs (592), hits (1,480), doubles (215), triples (105), extra-base hits (424), runs scored (765) and stolen bases (409).
Many in the crowd of 20,972 stood and cheered, while others booed when the 29-year-old left fielder came to bat with the bases loaded in the first inning. He grounded to first base, ending the threat. The Red Sox, who scored 30 runs in their previous two games, would not have many more opportunities against Shields.
Rays manager Joe Maddon played down Crawford’s return to Tropicana Field. After all, the Rays faced him during spring training as well as during a regular-season series at Fenway Park in April, when Tampa Bay beat the then-struggling Crawford and Red Sox twice to begin a recovery from a slow start of its own.
“Honestly, I hate to disappoint, but it’s really not that big of a deal to us. … I think more of what you’re going to see is for the fans,” Maddon said. “For us, we’ve moved on. We’ve got a bunch of guys that say ‘Rays’ on the front of their jerseys and that’s the group I’m concerned with. Honestly, from our perspective in our dugout, maybe a little with the beginning handshake and stuff, but let’s just move this thing along.”
Crawford conceded that it did feel strange walking into the stadium for the first time as the member of an opposing team.
“It was a little different,” Crawford said. “I still went into the home clubhouse first, just saying hello to everybody.”
Even though he’s hitting just .243, Crawford has batted .321 over the past 20 games to raise his batting average from .209 and help Boston pull out of an early season funk.
Crawford endured six losing seasons before the Rays turned it around and made an improbable run to the World Series in 2008.
He said he drew on difficult experiences from some of the lean years to pull out of his season-opening slump with the Red Sox.
“The one lesson I learned if you keep striving for something and work hard, one day it can definitely turn around and be something good,” Crawford said. “That’s what I’m taking with me now.”
He also had nice things to say about the third-place Rays, who trail the Red Sox by 3 1/2 games.
“I think they’re still a dynamic team. They have pitching. They have Longoria in the middle of the lineup. They play good defense. They have a winning attitude. They have a positive manager that makes them believe they can beat anybody,” Crawford said. “They’re still a very good team. You have to be careful with them.”
Notes: Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury has an 11-game hitting streak. … The Rays observed a moment of silence for longtime Tampa Tribune columnist and sports editor Tom McEwen, who died June 4 at the age of 88. … Boston SS Jed Lowrie was out of the lineup for the second straight game due to a sore left shoulder. … Tampa Bay RHP Jeff Niemann (strained lower back) could rejoin the rotation early next week. … Red Sox RHP Bobby Jenks (back tightness) threw at 90-feet on level ground. … Rays INF Felipe Lopez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham. … Boston manager Terry Francona said GM Theo Epstein plans to talk with LHP Andrew Miller on Wednesday, the same day the pitcher can opt of his contract. Miller is pitching for Triple-A Pawtucket.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)