ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter called James Shields' performance tonight for Tampa Bay "probably the best-pitched game that we've had pitched against us all year."
Fortunately for the Orioles, it didn't result in a loss.
Chris Davis' home run off the roof of the restaurant in center field held up. One run was all that the Orioles needed.
Shields was masterful with 15 strikeouts and only two hits allowed in nine innings. He threw 106 pitches, 70 for strikes.
"To have only that many pitches and strike out that many guys, I can only think of one mistake he made all night, and fortunately Chris was on it," Showalter said. "I think it was a high changeup. I'm not 100 percent sure. It's been big and to make it stand up ..."
Jim Johnson notched his 51st save and Miguel Gonzalez improved to 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA by blanking the Rays on two hits over 6 1/3 innings.
"We pitched well and played good defense and made it stand up," Showalter said. "You usually don't like your chances, but when you can close a one-run lead on the road against the two, three, four hitters in the American League East, you like your closer's mentality. He's been doing that all year for us."
Gonzalez doesn't seem to get rattled. He told reporters after the game that he only gets nervous when he's watching, never when he's pitching.
"If you've been through what he's been through, with injury and people kind of doubting him, and he's persevered," Showalter said. "I remember the first time in spring here and he was talking down in minor league camp about, 'Am I going to get noticed? There are so many guys down there.' One of our guys, and I won't say who, said, 'Here, you'll get an opportunity. Just hold on. You're going to get the ball and get a chance.' It started out with him relieving, and the more we saw him in some two- and three-inning stints, we thought about extending him. But everything we've thrown at him to challenge him, he's handled. You've been through what he's been, it toughens you to the fire.
"He's got that great mentality that he's playing with house money. You've got nothing to lose. He's one of those guys I like that he's not going to go back to the hotel or apartment after a game and go, 'Boy, I wish I had been more aggressive, I wish I had trusted myself, I wish I hadn't given the opposition so much credit.' He's going to say, 'Here's mine, see if you can handle it.' He's going to pitch intelligently, and you give Matt Wieters someone like that who can command multiple pitches, he can make it work."
Davis' home run traveled an estimated 440 feet. Wieters' ball last night barely cleared the short fence in the left field corner.
"I was kidding with the players that Matty's home run last night counts the same as that one," Showalter said. "They should change the rules that Matt's is maybe three-fourths and Chris' is two, but it doesn't work that way. They both had a great result for us, but that was... He certainly made (Shields) pay for about the only mistake he made all night."
Asked about the Orioles bouncing back from last night's defeat, Showalter said, "I think this time of the year, there's not a bounce back. It's a 'show up the next day.' The ball quits bouncing here pretty soon and you've got a chair at the dance, but you'd like to improve your chances if you can keep winning."
Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette will meet in the morning to discuss the playoff roster.
"We've got a tough meeting in the morning, but if you told me before the season started we'd be having this meeting tomorrow in Tampa, we would have been pretty excited about it," Showalter said.
Showalter confirmed that Chris Tillman will start Wednesday night.
"At the very worst, we're one down and one to play, and he's the best we have available to go tomorrow," Showalter said. "There were some things that could have happened that would have changed that, though."