Tampa Bay Rays
Zobrist, Shields pace Rays, who secure winning record
ST. PETERSBURG - James Shields won't finish 2009 with a winning record, but his performance Wednesday night helped ensure that the Rays will. The Rays' Opening Day starter looked like his old, reliable self in his final outing of the season, surviving an eighth-inning uprising by the Baltimore Orioles to secure a 5-3 Tampa Bay win. The victory was the Rays' 82nd of the season, guaranteeing them a winning record for the second time in their 12-year history. Shields wrapped up his campaign with an 11-12 record but was pleased to finish on such a positive note. "It's always good to have that fresh in your mind going into next year," Shields said. "The good news is I'm healthy. I threw a lot of innings this year and I'm staying healthy and I feel strong."Shields completed eight innings for the fourth time in 33 starts this season to finish with a career-high 219 2/3 innings. He joins CC Sabathia, Dan Haren and Roy Halladay as the only big-league pitchers to log at least 31 starts and 215 innings each of the last three years. "I know a lot of people are disappointed, but he's still had a pretty good year," said Manager Joe Maddon. "That just tells you where the bar has been raised to, and I love that. ... He's sucking up his innings, he's saving the bullpen, and he gives us a chance to win on a consistent basis. That's a pretty good starter right there." It helped that he got early run support, including a three-run homer by Ben Zobrist and a solo shot from Carl Crawford. Shields didn't allow an extra-base hit until the eighth, when Michael Aubrey doubled and former Ray Ty Wigginton hit a two-run homer off the bench. The pitcher did a little chirping at his pal Wigginton as he rounded the bases, yelling something about how he had ruined everything, but the evening ended happily for Shields and the Rays. The Rays' closer roulette landed on Russ Springer for the final two outs, and the veteran got the job done by striking out Melvin Mora after allowing a hit to Matt Wieters. Springer secured his ninth career save and first since April 24, 2001, for the Diamondbacks against the Marlins.