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The Shields Shutdown: Devil Rays 7, Tigers 1

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Not a lot to say about this one. James Shields had all of his pitches working tonight, blowing the Tigers away with his fastball, fooling him with his change-up, and inducing ground balls with his sinker. When he's got it going like that, Shields has been a tough guy to beat this season. Tonight, he overmatched a lineup that hasn't been able to generate much offense lately (the last two games excepted), especially with Gary Sheffield trying to get back into fighting shape.

Meanwhile, the Rays definitely brought their bats tonight. Every player in the lineup got a hit, and there was no break for Tigers pitchers at the bottom of the order. It was Tampa Bay's #9 hitter, Dioner Navarro, that broke the game open with a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Macay McBride.

Can You Throw Tonight? Okay, You're In

Speaking of McBride, the stats don't quite bear this out, but asking him to be more than a situational lefty seems to be asking for trouble. I realize Jim Leyland was in kind of a bind tonight with a fill-in starter that likely wouldn't pitch deep into the game. Chad Durbin couldn't make it out of the fifth inning, but I'm not sure Leyland made the situation worse by asking McBride to pitch long relief.

My first thought was that Leyland had to go with McBride in that situation because he didn't want Jason Grilli to spout gasoline all over the field again. Once McBride melted down in the sixth, however, someone else had to come in. Zach Miner seemed like the choice to make, although he hasn't been so good recently, either. But at least he hadn't blown a four-run lead the night before.

Yet Leyland went with Grilli. And he justified the decision by getting out of the sixth, and escaping a potential jam with a double-play ball in the seventh. But let's not get carried away. Grilli did have a run charged to him in the eighth. He's kind of like Pig-Pen from the "Peanuts" comics strip. No matter how hard he tries, he can't keep that dirt off him. Grilli just can't keep runs from scoring.

Leyland eventually brought Miner into the game, but not until the ninth inning when the outcome had essentially been decided. I don't quite get what he was trying to do with his relievers tonight. But maybe he didn't know what to do, either.

The Power of Polanco

Okay, Placido Polanco had already surpassed his 2006 home run total a couple of weeks ago. But doesn't it seem like he's really driving the ball well these days? He added another home run tonight, which was all the offense the Tigers could manage against Shields. Last night, he drove a ball deep into the outfield too, near the flagpole in left-center field. It didn't go out of the ballpark, but bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Regardless, that's a long way to hit a ball. (Polanco's 27 doubles are third on the team, by the way.) While Sheffield tries to get his strength and timing back, the Tigers could use some more extra-base power from Polanco.