Baseball: Shields shines to bring Rays level

By Lou Scardellain St Petersburg, Florida
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The Independent Online

James Shields lived up to his "Big Game" nickname on Thursday as he pitched the Tampa Bay Rays to their first World Series victory, a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Tropicana Field, to tie the series 1-1.

The Phillies threatened throughout the game, but Shields rose to the occasion each time, handing over a 4-0 lead to the bullpen in the sixth inning. "I thought I pitched pretty well," Shields said. "I had to battle through a lot of innings tonight."

It was fitting that Shields registered the first World Series win for Tampa Bay, who have turned their fortunes around this year after 10 seasons at the bottom of the American League East, since he has a reputation for relishing a challenge.

"They just started calling me 'Big Game' in the minor leagues," Shields said. "It was kind of a joke at first. I ended up pitching a couple of good games in the minor leagues and then [everybody] is calling me 'Big Game'. They don't call me by my first name anymore."

The Rays manager, Joe Maddon, appreciates his "Big Game" hurler. "Shieldsie worked his butt off to get to that particular juncture of the game," Maddon said about holding the Phillies for almost six innings. "And that's what we needed."

Maddon had a theory about how Shields got the nickname. "I think primarily it comes from his attitude and his demeanour on the mound, his consistency," he said. "You feel pretty comfortable when he goes out there under those circumstances."