ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Big Game James. That's quite a nickname for a pitcher with 32 major league wins.
James Shields definitely deserved it Thursday night.
James Shields stymied the slumping Philadelphia Phillies, rookie David Price got the final seven outs and the plucky Tampa Bay Rays rebounded from a rare home loss with a 4-2 victory that tied the World Series at 1-all.
"It was kind of a joke at first," James Shields said. "I ended up pitching a couple of good games in the minor leagues and they say my whole organization is calling me `Big Game.' They don't call me by my first name anymore."
After dropping the opener to ace Cole Hamels and the Phillies, the young Rays earned their first World Series win with help from a squeeze play and a checked swing.
Tampa Bay never really got a huge hit, but neither did the Phillies as Jimmy Rollins & crew fell to 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
"That might be one of our sloppiest games all year," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I'm concerned about us hitting with guys on base, because it looks like at times we might be trying a little too hard. But we can fix that."
The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Saturday night, though rain is in the forecast. ALCS MVP Matt Garza is scheduled to pitch for Tampa Bay against 45-year-old Jamie Moyer, making his World Series debut.
"We came in here knowing it's going to be a tight series," Rays outfielder B.J. Upton said. "Both clubs are a lot alike."
The Rays scored on Jason Bartlett's safety squeeze and built another rally when Rocco Baldelli walked on a checked swing that seemed to confuse players and umpires alike.
James Shields pitched shutout ball into the sixth, working out of trouble just as Hamels did for a 3-2 win Wednesday night. Tampa Bay is 5-3 at home in the postseason after going a major league-best 57-24 during the season.
"I didn't feel too much pressure," James Shields said. "The guys in the clubhouse were real relaxed before the game."
The 23-year-old Price, called up in September after he was the top pick in last year's draft, struck out slugger Ryan Howard with two on to end the seventh.
The hard-throwing lefty gave up a pinch-hit homer to Eric Bruntlett in the eighth, then stayed on to close it out against Philadelphia's big boppers.
Carloz Ruiz led off the ninth with a double, and a pitch from Price appeared to graze Rollins' jersey. But it was not called a hit batter, and a frustrated Rollins soon popped out.
Ruiz scored when third baseman Evan Longoria booted Jayson Werth's grounder for an error, but Price fanned Chase Utley and got Howard on a game-ending grounder.
"I was nervous - very," Price said. "I usually don't even sweat out there and my hat looks like I went swimming with it."
Philadelphia's lone hit with runners in scoring position was Shane Victorino's infield single in the fourth, and that didn't even produce a run.
Living up to his catchy monicker, James Shields outpitched Brett Myers. Baldelli thwarted a potential Phillies rally with a strong throw, and Tampa Bay took advantage of two costly mistakes by Werth.
James Shields usually flourishes at home, where he was 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA during the season. All four of his postseason starts have come at Tropicana Field, including a win over the Chicago White Sox in Tampa Bay's first playoff game and two tough losses to Boston in the ALCS.
"You feel pretty comfortable when he goes out there under those circumstances," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's kind of a misconception. We're starting to play our first big games now, and he's pitching the same now as when the big game was trying to prevent somebody else from getting to the playoffs."
A 14-game winner during the season, James Shields looked surprised when he was pulled in the sixth after 104 pitches. He doffed his cap to the crowd, and Dan Wheeler retired Pedro Feliz on an inning-ending grounder with runners at the corners.
The Phillies had a chance to rally in the fifth after putting two on with one out. Utley hit a looper to right that was caught on the run by Baldelli, who fired to first behind Werth for an inning-ending double play.
Back from two seasons derailed by injuries and mitochondrial disorder, a condition that slows muscle recovery and causes extreme fatigue, Baldelli also was involved on a confusing call in the second that helped Tampa Bay make it 3-0.
He checked his swing on a full-count pitch and plate umpire Kerwin Danley immediately raised his right arm as if to call strike three. But then Danley pointed to first base for an appeal, and umpire Fieldin Culbreth signaled safe.
"It was his intention to go to first base for help on a half-swing that he had as ball four," said Mike Port, Major League Baseball's vice president for umpiring. "He just gave a confusing mechanic. But he had called it a ball, and it was ruled no half-swing anyway. So it was just that particular mechanic that caused confusion."
Myers and several Phillies infielders were puzzled, along with Manuel, who took a few steps out of the dugout but didn't argue long.
"I thought he called the guy out," Manuel said.
Port said the umpires would not be available for comment.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Upton hit an RBI single to right. Werth made a strong throw to cut down Baldelli, who crashed into Ruiz but couldn't dislodge the ball.
Before the next inning started, Baldelli rested on one knee in right field.
In the fourth, Bartlett, the No. 9 hitter, drove in Cliff Floyd with a safety squeeze - one pitch after fouling off a suicide squeeze attempt. Rays fans clanged their cowbells, just as they were instructed on the scoreboard in a campy "public service announcement" before the game.
Demoted to the minors in July, Myers was in trouble from the start. He issued a leadoff walk to Akinori Iwamura in the first before Upton sliced an opposite-field single to right. Werth booted the ball for a key error that gave both runners an extra base, and Upton clapped his hands after sliding into second.
Carlos Pena drove in a run with a groundout and the Phillies kept their infield back for Longoria, who made it 2-0 with another grounder.
James Shields gave up leadoff doubles in the second and third, but escaped both times.
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