ST. PETERSBURG -- Big Game James was foreign to big games until this season.
Then again, so were the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays.
So how does a guy like James Shields, the winning pitcher in the Rays’ 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday in Game 2 of the World Series, get such a moniker?
“It was kind of a joke at first,” said Shields, adding some teammates gave him that title when he was a minor-leaguer. “When I got called up to the big leagues, the writers kind of got a hold of that, and they just started calling me that.
“I don’t have any added pressure as far as that goes.” Shields had big-game stuff Thursday, when he blanked the Phillies over 5 2/3 innings to run his postseason record to 2-2.
“I think it primarily comes from his attitude and his demeanor on the mound, his consistency,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “You feel pretty comfortable when he goes out there under those circumstances.”
THAT WAS QUICK: Tampa Bay’s David Price, the Rays’ first pick of the 2007 draft, became the quickest top overall pick to play in a World Series when he entered Game 2 in the seventh inning Thursday. The previous record holders were Atlanta’s Chipper Jones, who was drafted in 1990 and played in the ’95 Series, and Los Angeles’ Tim Belcher, drafted in ’83 and a participant in the ’88 Series.
LINKED IN HISTORY: Though he didn’t earn a save, Price’s 2 1/3 innings was the longest relief outing to close out a World Series game since 1997, when Cleveland’s Brian Anderson pitched three innings to help beat the Florida Marlins in Game 4. Anderson now serves as the assistant to the pitching coach with the Rays.
HE CAN DO IT!: Comedian Rob Schneider, telling the Rays “You can do it!” (quoting his character from the Adam Sandler comedy The Waterboy) in a video being run in constant rotation during the playoffs at the Trop, was in attendance Thursday and sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
WHO’S NEXT? CHECK THE MOUND: Of the 55 World Series MVP awards handed out, 26 have been given to pitchers, the most of any position. Twenty-four hurlers have won the award – Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson have won it twice – though a pitcher hasn’t taken the prize since 2003, when Josh Beckett was named MVP after pitching Florida past the New York Yankees. Third basemen are second with eight, followed by catchers (six).