James Shields Outduels Josh Beckett to Land Rays in First Place Tie

Steven WynockerCorrespondent IApril 28, 2008

James Shields was everything Rays’ fans expected from him and then some after his two-hit performance over the defending champion Boston Red Sox.

With Josh Beckett on the mound and facing a furious Sox team after two disappointing losses the past two games, the task looked to be too tough to manage for a young Rays’ team. 

Shields, however, took the team on his back to blank the Sox for their second straight sweep. Shields had seven strikeouts as his changeup was the most impressive it’s been all year.

Josh Beckett was just as impressive minus his only two blunders. Beckett threw wild trying to pick off Jason Bartlett at first.  As Bartlett rounded third base, JD Drew missed the cutoff man, and Bartlett's heads up play led to the first run of the game.

His second came against Evan Longoria who had struck out twice and already had two strikes on him when Beckett hung a curve ball. Longoria crushed it over the 370 sign in left center for his third HR on the season.

The Rays went on to win 3-0 to sweep the Sox. This win lands them tied for first place with Baltimore and Boston. This is the latest the Rays have ever shared first place in its franchise history.

The team will look to build on these great moments and carry it into their three-city road trip against division opponents Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto.  

Scott Kazmir is looking to be back sometime next week, which is another reason the Rays are really getting excited about this young season. Strikeout Scott Kazmir will join an already impressive young rotation with Shields and Garza. 

The biggest question is who to move to either the bullpen or Durham? 

Andy Sonnanstine has been probably the most impressive minus one bad start to the Yankees earlier this month. Edwin Jackson has shown great maturity and pitched a great last outing Saturday against the Sox in front of a sold out crowd. 

Jason "the Hammer" Hammel has been the most consistent pitcher for the Rays’ young staff and is my likely choice to join the bullpen where he has spent some time in the past. 

With Kazmir's return and Cliff Floyd looking to join the squad in the next few weeks, the Rays are heading in the right direction.