OAKLAND, Calif. - As the ball settled into B.J. Upton's glove in center field for the final out Tuesday night, James Shields turned toward the guys sitting down in the bullpen and fired a "This was for you" point.
On a night when the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen needed a breather, Shields provided just that, throwing his first complete game of the season as the Rays rolled to an 8-0 victory against the A's at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
"After (Monday's) game the bullpen needed a rest. That was the main point," Shields said, referring to Monday's 15-inning, 4-3 loss in which all seven relievers worked.
"We saw that a lot last year," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Shields' excellence. "It was pretty much textbook. Outstanding."
The Rays remain 3 games behind the Angels, who took over the top spot in the wild card standings from the A's. The Rays trail the A's by 2 1/2 games for the second wild card spot entering this afternoon's series finale
Tuesday was James Shields circa 2011, when he led the major leagues with 11 complete games and threw four shutouts.
"It's very satisfying," he said. "Obviously all the (trade) talk that's been going, but for me personally being able to go deep in the game like that and go nine innings for the first time this year, I'm really happy about it."
Shields held one of the hotter lineups in baseball to three hits and struck out 11. He didn't allow a runner past first base and worked to only two batters over the minimum.
And he did it in a tidy 98 pitches by establishing his fastball and using his curveball and changeup when needed. Shields said he didn't throw his first curveball until the fourth inning, because he didn't need to throw one during the first three innings.
Shields and pitching coach Jim Hickey came up with a gameplan that called for more fastballs after Shields' last start, when he allowed five runs in six innings in a loss to the Orioles in Baltimore.
"He wanted me to stay aggressive early in the game, try to make them swing the bats. That's what I did," Shields said.
That Shields even made the start was a surprise based on the rumors last week that had Shields being traded to as many as seven different teams. Those rumors tailed off over the weekend and Shields said he didn't believe he was going to be traded by Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline.
He wasn't, of course, and he fished his Tampa Bay game cap out of his locker to wear during his postgame interview as a sign that is glad to still be a part of the team.
"(The trade talk) really hadn't bothered me, to be honest with you, but, yeah, it's good to be a Ray," he said.
"This is my home. I consider Tampa Bay to be my home. I'm glad to be here."
His teammates, who would have viewed a Shields trade as a salary dump in the middle of a playoff race, were relieved that he stayed.
"It shows they still have confidence in us," J.P. Howell said before the game.
So was it a coincidence when the Rays offense went out and produced 11 hits and the second-most runs on this trip behind the 10 they hung on Baltimore July 25?
"We had a good feel about us (before the game)," Maddon said.
The Rays handed Shields a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Upton singled home Sam Fuld and Ben Zobrist's grounder to second scored Desmond Jennings from third base.
They scored three more times in the sixth inning for a 5-0 lead when Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez had RBI singles and Carlos Peña had a sacrifice fly.
Those five runs came against A's rookie right-hander Tommy Milone, who entered the game with a 0.91 ERA in eight home starts this season. Milone had never allowed more than two runs in a game in front of the home crowd.
"That was as clean a game as we've played all year," Maddon said.
The rest was up to Shields, and he made it look easy, winning for just the second time since June 10.
"You know it's in there," Maddon said. "You know he's going to come back and pitch this way.
"Fortunately for us he's still here."
Tampa Bay Rays