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MLB: Locals make playoff pitch

Three pitchers with local ties take the mound in the middle of pennant races in three different

Posted: September 9, 2012 9:12 p.m.
Updated: September 9, 2012 9:12 p.m.

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher and Hart graduate James Shields throws to home plate against the Texas Rangers in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday. He was one of three former local pitchers to start for an MLB team on Sunday.

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Take a look at the top of the American League Wild Card standings and you’ll find Tampa Bay trailing Baltimore by one game, and Oakland by two for two AL Wild Card berths.

And if you tuned in on Sunday afternoon, you might have noticed that all three of those squads sent out starting pitchers with ties to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Hart graduate James Shields highlighted the day, pitching a masterful complete-game shut out to lead the Rays to a 6-0 victory.

That was overshadowed only by teammate B.J. Upton’s performance at the plate.

Upton hit three home runs, Shields threw a two-hitter and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Texas Rangers 6-0 on Sunday.

“He’s player of the game as far as I’m concerned,” Shields said. “Three home runs in one game ... it’s probably the first time he’s ever done that in a game. He’s really locked in right now. He’s one of the guys that, I told everyone this year, he’s my pick to click and he’s really showing it down the stretch here.”

Tampa Bay took two of three in the weekend series against the AL West leaders. The first two games went extra innings. The Rays trail the AL East-leading New York Yankees by two games.

Shields (14-8) permitted just three baserunners. Elvis Andrus reached on a first-inning error, Nelson Cruz had an infield single in the second and David Murphy singled in the eighth.

“James Shields was on,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He was really good. If you look at the game, you’ve got to give credit to James Shields. When a guy like that is pitching like that, it makes you look like you’re lethargic.”

Shields struck out eight in his second complete-game shutout this year. The other came in a 3-0 win over Oakland on July 31.

“Shields was outstanding today and that was as good as he’s thrown all year, and BJ’s performance ... put those together and they were fun to watch,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

But he wasn’t the only local to pick up a big win for his ball club on Sunday.

On the opposite coast, Saugus High graduate Tom Milone may not have matched Shields pitch-for-pitch, but he matched him in the category which matters most, picking up his 12th victory of the season in a 4-2 victory over Seattle.

Milone worked six strong innings, Jonny Gomes hit a three-run home run and the Athletics finished off a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners with a 4-2 victory Sunday.

Milone (12-10) allowed eight hits and two runs, matched a career high with 10 strikeouts and had no walks.

He has walked one or no batters in each of his past 14 starts. That ties the longest streak by a starter in Oakland history. Gil Heredia also had 14 starts with one walk or less from May 29 to Aug. 11, 1999.

During his stretch, Milone has issued just eight walks and struck out 78 in 88 innings. His 12 wins also ties the Oakland rookie record set by Chris Codiroli in 1983 and matched by Joe Blanton in 2005.

“I’ve always been a strike-thrower,” Milone said. “I feel like nothing good comes from putting guys on base with a free pass. That’s probably the reason why I give up so many hits.”

The Mariners did pound out eight hits but couldn’t bunch enough together.

“That’s part of what he does. That’s one of his strengths, making you hit your way on,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He has given up his share of hits but a lot of times they’re the other way. He makes better pitches when guys are on base, when he has to.”

The victory moved the A’s within 3½ games of Texas in the AL West after the Rangers lost to Tampa Bay 6-0. Oakland is also battling the New York Yankees and Baltimore atop the wild-card race.

Things didn’t work out so well for former Canyon High player and his Baltimore team.

The New York Yankees escaped from Camden Yards with their lead in the AL East intact, and as a bonus, slugger Curtis Granderson worked his way out of an annoying slump.

Granderson came off the bench to hit his 35th homer and drive in five runs, and New York beat the Baltimore Orioles 13-3 on Sunday to regain sole possession of first place in the division and earn an important split of the season series.

Britton (5-2) allowed five runs, five hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings. The left-hander was 4-0 with a 0.94 ERA in his previous four starts.

“I felt like when I commanded the ball in the zone, I got the outs that I wanted,” Britton said. “So I kind of just beat myself around today with the walks.”

The Yankees got a first-inning run when Jeter beat out a chopper to third and scored on a two-out RBI single by Robinson Cano.

New York benefited from four walks in a four-run fourth. After a single and two walks loaded the bases, Britton walked Steve Pearce to force in a run. Jayson Nix and Ichiro Suzuki hit RBI singles before Jeter ended Britton’s outing with a bases-loaded walk. Jake Arrieta then struck out Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez.

It may not have been the best day for Britton, but there should be many more opportunites to come as the postseason push continues toward October.

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