Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Wrapping up the opener
Posted Sep 13, 2008 by Marc Lancaster
Updated Sep 13, 2008 at 05:27 PM
NEW YORK—Some thoughts from the principals on Game 1 of today’s doubleheader:
James Shields had been 0-6 in seven previous starts against the Yankees, so to say he was pleased to get a win today wouldn’t quite cover it.
“It’s a monkey off my back,” he said. “I knew today I needed to go deep in the game and help our bullpen out for the second game. I pitched pretty well today.”
The only puzzling moment for him was Jose Molina’s reaction to being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning. The catcher gave Shields a staredown before getting a talking-to from Carlos Pena. It didn’t do the trick, as Molina went far out of the baseline on a grounder to second and kicked his leg out at a leaping Jason Bartlett on the slide. He was called out and the Rays were awarded a double play on interference.
“I was surprised,” Shields said. “There’s no way I’m hitting a guy up 7-0 with an 0-2 count. I’m throwing a cutter. If I’m going to hit a guy, it’s going to be with a fastball, there’s no doubt about it. I didn’t hit him on purpose; I just missed my spot. He wasn’t too happy with the pitch before, the cutter that I threw 0-1 that the umpire called a strike and was definitely a strike. I think his emotions kind of got to him a little bit, but that’s all right, it’s part of the game.”
* As for the Rays having switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Fernando Perez bat right-handed against the righty Mike Mussina, that was Joe Maddon’s brainchild. He presented it to the pair during the Boston series as a condition that they would play if they agreed to do it, and obviously both agreed. The Rays had managed four runs off Mussina in 18 1/3 innings in three previous starts this year—all Tampa Bay losses—so they loaded up as right-handed as they could, including the switch-hitters.
“This guy’s had a tremendous year and he’s beat us up – we’ve looked bad against him,” said Maddon. “Why continue to do the same thing? It’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Let’s try something different.”
* Evan Longoria’s return to the lineup after more than a month on the sideline was a smashing success, with a couple of hits and a great inning-ending play in the sixth. He had no complaints following the game and will be available to pinch-hit this evening.
“It felt good,” said Longoria. “My timing is obviously a little off. There was a couple at-bats where maybe if I’m right I might hit the ball a little harder or maybe somewhere they’re not, but I can’t complain. For the first day back, I felt as good as I expected and more.”