ST. PETERSBURG — If Tuesday was indeed RHP James Shields’ final start in a Rays uniform, he sure went out in style.
Shields, the long-time staff leader and workhorse, struck out a career-high and club-record 15 in a complete game against the Orioles.
"That was probably the best game of my career right there," Shields said.
That's why the Rays felt so bad they couldn't back Shields up, mustering just two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Orioles in front of 13,460 at Tropicana Field.
"It honestly breaks your heart," C Chris Gimenez said.
It was the Rays' fifth 1-0 loss this season, the most in the AL since the Twins had five in 2008. Manager Joe Maddon, who has said it's a "mortal sin" to waste good pitching, went a step further in Shields' case.
"It's almost 'original sin' there," he said. "You need pure baptism to get rid of that right there."
Maddon said that was the best he has seen Shields and the best performance by a Rays pitcher all season. Shields, who had command of all his pitches and hit 95 mph with his fastball, passed LHP David Price's club record of 14 K's on 106 pitches.
"That was probably the best pitched game that we've had against us all year," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
"For a guy to strike out 15, go nine and get the loss, you don't see that very often," Orioles RF Chris Davis said.
Shields hopes the team picks up his $10.25 million option next season, and Maddon would love to have him back. The fans sent him off with a standing ovation as he walked off in the ninth.
"I knew this was my last game and I wanted to let it all hang out," he said. "I wanted to end on a good note, end on a bang."
Though the Rays' playoff hopes ended late Monday night, Maddon vowed they would play it "straight up," using regulars like 3B Evan Longoria, because the game meant something to the Orioles. The same goes tonight.
Shields' only blemish was hanging a changeup in the fourth to Davis, who blasted a 440-foot homer off the roof of Batter's Eye restaurant in center.
"That was probably the farthest home run I've ever given up in my career," Shields said.
Shields said he told a bat boy to deliver a joke to Davis: "Can he hit it any further?"
"He said, 'I'm sorry, I'll try to hit it 480 feet next time,' " Shields said, smiling. "I thought that was pretty funny."
WITH HONORS: Where RHP Fernando Rodney's historic season puts him in the American League Cy Young race remains to be seen, but he picked up a significant honor Tuesday.
Rodney was named team MVP in the annual voting by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Rodney, who has 47 saves and a reliever record 0.6053 ERA, received five of the eight first-place votes, finishing ahead of 20-game winner Price and SS Ben Zobrist. Rodney was honored at a luncheon and in a pregame ceremony.
"It's something special," Rodney said. "I've never had it."
LHP Matt Moore was a unanimous selection as the top rookie, with C Jose Lobaton second and RHP Chris Archer third. Shields won the Paul C. Smith Champion award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. Zobrist was second and Price third.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]