I imagine that Rays fans feel about “Big Game” James Shields more or less the same way that we feel about Tommy Hanson. They’re good pitchers and all, but they have this occasional habit of giving up runs in bunches. Shields has had the following season ERAs since 2008: 3.56, 4.14, 5.18, 2.82, and now he’s at 3.77 this year, after giving up four earned in six innings last night. Admit it: you’d hate him.
Hanson did his usual high-wire act and somehow managed to tie his career season high in innings pitched, with 7. He walked two and struck out just three, which obviously isn’t ideal, but he gave up just six singles, and was immensely helped by a sputtering Rays offense that let him cruise through the 4th and 5th innings with just 15 pitches combined.
As usual, the Braves got the scoring started early, with a Martin Prado double and a Freddie Freeman RBI single in the first, and then Chipper Jones scored on a wild pitch in the second. Jones later left the came with a contused angle ankle after he took a hot shot off the leg. Hopefully he won’t be out for long.
Hanson then gave the lead back on single runs in the second and third: Luke Scott reached on an infield single and later scored on an Elliot Johnson bunt single, which Hanson kind of jogged toward and then realized that he wasn’t going to be able to throw anybody out. Then, in the third inning, BJ Upton reached on an infield single, stole second, made it to third via a double steal, and scored via a sac fly. Hanson can’t hit, he can’t field, and he can’t hold runners, but as long as he doesn’t give up hard contact I’ll take that tradeoff.
Somehow, this year’s Braves have a knack for continuing to add runs throughout the game. Two more runs in the 5th on a Freeman RBI double and a Brian McCann RBI single, and another run in the 7th when Prado hit a solo shot. Venters gave one of them back when Sean Rodriguez got hit by a pitch — it looked like a questionable call to me — then advanced on a passed ball, and was singled home by Luke Scott, whose facial hair is probably grounds for prosecution. They call him “The Wolverine,” as if that excuses it.
Rays fans are going through a tough time right now, without Evan Longoria or Desmond Jennings, and with uberprospect Matt Moore scuffling in his rookie season. If you see one today, be nice to him or her. They’re much better than Yankees or Red Sox fans.