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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Tampa Bay Rays

Shields, Niemann make history in split with Red Sox

BOSTON - Sean Rodriguez hit into a triple play Tuesday night, but a Ray has hit into a triple play before.

Ben Zobrist stole home, but that too has been done before by someone wearing a Tampa Bay Rays jersey.

But a pair of complete games by two Tampa Bay pitchers in the same day? Slow down, brother, you are traveling through uncharted territory.

James Shields and Jeff Niemann tossed a pair of three-hitters during the day/night doubleheader with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, but the Rays could only gain a split as the Red Sox won the first game 3-1 and the Rays bounced back for a 6-2 win at night.

"That's awesome," Niemann said. "I was here early and saw him throw his and he threw great. One pitch got him. It's just pretty cool to get two in the same day and especially be a part of it."

Maybe not so awesome for Shields, who now has a major league-high nine complete games but is only 11-10 despite a 2.83 ERA.

Niemann, however, won for the seventh time in his last 10 starts.

"There's always that saying, sometimes it's not how you pitch, it's when you pitch," Shields said.

The Rays managed only three hits in the 3-1 afternoon loss, but had 12 hits in the 6-2 win.

"They just got us in the first game and we came back and returned the favor," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But it's tough. We only gave up six hits in the two games combined and only won one of the two. You'd like to believe you can win both of those."

The Rays gave Shields a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Desmond Jennings started with a double off Jon Lester, stole third and came home when Evan Longoria bounced out to third.

Zobrist doubled in the inning and Longoria singled with one out in the sixth, but Lester, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon combined to retire the last 11 Rays.

Shields, meanwhile, retired the Red Sox in order in six of his eight innings.

The one pitch that got him, as Niemann referenced, was a three-run home run by Jacoby Ellsbury in the third inning that followed singles by Josh Reddick and Mike Aviles, Boston's No. 7 and 9 hitters.

Shields, who also pitched a complete game in a 1-0 loss at Yankee Stadium on July 10, called this loss "frustrating," but refused to blame the offense for lack of support.

When asked if he could have done anything more to gain a win, Shields said, "Don't give up any runs. Sometimes that's what you got to do as a pitcher. If I make my pitch right there, who knows, it might be 1-0 and we get the win."

Niemann also allowed a home run to Ellsbury, and one to Jason Varitek, too. The big difference was both blasts were solo jobs.

Niemann's offensive support included three hits each by Zobrist and B.J. Upton and two more hits from Jennings – including a home run over the Green Monster in the fifth – to extend his hitting streak to seven games.

Given that kind of support, Niemann easily extended a winning streak to seven games for the second time in his career.

"I just loved his aggressive nature, and I liked the way finished it," Maddon sid. "He finished it in grand style. He wasn't being tentative. He was throwing strikes. He wasn't tap dancing around their lineup."

Niemann, who came one out away from throwing a complete game Aug. 5 against the A's, threw his first complete game of the season and the fourth of his career.

"I definitely wanted to go back out there," he said. "I came pretty close a couple of games ago so it was nice to actually go out there and finish one."

Shields, who tossed his second straight complete game, didn't tap dance around the Red Sox lineup, either. But he didn't have the benefit of pitching the night game.

"I love the fact that our team loses a very difficult came during the day and comes back and plays even better in the nightcap," Maddon said. "That's who we are."

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