ST. PETERSBURG — White Sox OF Dewayne Wise made national news with his spectacular catch to save Mark Buehrle's perfect game against the Rays a couple of weeks ago.
Rays RF Gabe Gross would have loved to have kept RHP James Shields' no-hitter alive Sunday in similar fashion, but he didn't think he had a chance on John Buck's soft liner to lead off the eighth.
Gross charged but decided not to dive for it, allowing it to bounce a few feet in front of him.
"If I thought I had any chance of actually catching it, yeah, I would have laid out," Gross said. "I knew the last couple steps, probably the last step, I wasn't going to get there. And at that point, I was just trying to keep the ball in front of me."
With the game scoreless at the time, it also made it difficult for Gross to take the risk.
"You lay out and the ball gets by you, and the guy gets a triple," Gross said. "With no outs, that's no good. Even with that, if I thought I had a chance to do it, I probably would have done it. But I don't think there was any way I was going to get there."
HELP WANTED: Shields has gotten little run support this season, with the Rays scoring just 87 runs in his 23 starts (3.78 per outing) and tallying three or fewer in 14.
"Almost every team has a pitcher that runs into that problem, and Shields has been the culprit this year (with) the lack of offense," manager Joe Maddon said. "To his credit, he keeps going out and pitching great games."
Shields has tried to take it in stride, saying, "Move forward. That's all I can do."
PATIENCE PAYS OFF: LF Carl Crawford may have his nagging hamstring injury from a year ago partly to thank for him being more polished and on pace for the best season of his career.
"It may have been a blessing in disguise," he said.
Crawford said the injury forced him to learn how to be effective without his typical trademark speed, which resulted in him studying pitchers' moves more as well as how they pitched him. At the end of last season, Crawford went back and studied his at-bats, noticing a lot of the pitches he swung at were balls. He focused on having a more patient approach at the plate.
Now Crawford already has tied a career high in walks (37) and is on track for his top marks in batting average, on-base percentage and steals.
"I was always a guy that it didn't matter where you threw the ball, because I could just hit it and run and get a base hit that way," Crawford said. "Last year, when I didn't have the speed, I had to learn how to do the things the right way. Now since I learned how to do things the right way, and the combination of having my speed back, you're seeing what you're seeing now."
KEEP IT UP: LHP Scott Kazmir doesn't plan to change much from his last start, and rightly so. Kazmir, who gave up just one run in seven innings in a win over the Yankees, said he feels everything coming together.
"I'm just going to go out there with the same intensity: don't let up and keep the same game plan," he said.
MISCELLANY: Maddon decided to move Ben Zobrist from second to centerfield in the ninth (and remove B.J. Upton) to keep pinch-hitter Willy Aybar in the game at second base, enabling him to be able to hit again in the ninth if the Rays got a rally going.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.