Shields puts ALDS nightmare to rest
Setup man has scoreless outing as Angels take ALCS opener
CHICAGO -- One of the latest, most popular expressions in baseball clubhouses is "Wear it." Simply put, it means "Deal with it," and one can also surmise that it means you should learn how to handle adversity because it will make you a better player and better person.
So a night after Scot Shields blew a lead in Game 4 of the Division Series in New York, and shortly after the Angels won the pivotal Game 5 in Anaheim, Shields had about four hours to sleep at home before getting on another plane to Chicago for the opener of the American League Championship Series against the White Sox in Chicago.
Everything seemed fine, but Shields' young daughter interrupted his glorious sleep at 8 a.m., shouting, "Daddy, it's wakeup time!"
Wear it, indeed.
Shields did exactly that. He got back on the plane, got to Chicago and then got back on the horse on Tuesday night, pitching two scoreless innings to set up closer Francisco Rodriguez in the Angels' 3-2 victory that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"It felt great to bounce back and help my team," Shields said. "The thing with my daughter was a bit overblown. I got enough sleep."
And the Angels got just enough offense to get Shields into the game. Not that this is an unusual scenario. Shields set a club record with 78 appearances and pitched in the first four games of the five-game Division Series.
He got a breather in Game 5, when the Angels went with Kelvim Escobar in the setup role, and had plenty of gas for Tuesday night.
With the Angels up, 3-2, in the bottom of the seventh, starter Paul Byrd plunked Aaron Rowand with a pitch right between the numbers to open the frame. Angels manager Mike Scioscia had seen enough and called on Shields.
Shields got A.J. Pierzynski to bounce into a 4-6 fielder's choice. Catcher Bengie Molina then caught Pierzynski stealing for the second out and Joe Crede flied out to right to end the inning.
In the eighth, Shields came back out and was immediately stung by an infield hit off the bat of Juan Uribe. Undaunted, Shields got Scott Podsednik on a called third strike before inducing a soft lineout to short off the bat of Tadahito Iguchi.
Jermaine Dye followed with a single to right field that pushed Uribe to second, but Shields got one of the biggest outs of the evening when slugger and Angels-killer Paul Konerko lofted a fly ball to center.
It was a stark departure from the outing delivered by Shields in Game 4 of the ALDS, when he allowed the Yankees to pull ahead with two runs in the seventh inning.
And there's no doubt that the results of that game were on Shields' mind when he opened the bullpen gate.
"I wanted to get back on the mound," Shields said. "Taking that loss was pretty hard, especially because I made us go back to California. I don't know if there was anybody happier than me yesterday when we won. I knew then that I could make up for it."
Shields was blessed at birth with the coveted "rubber arm" that makes it easy for Scioscia to call on him in consecutive games. Since he was called up from Triple-A in 2002, the right-hander's versatility and ability to recover quickly has gotten him promoted from long man to spot starter to elite setup man.
Shields led all AL relievers with 91 2/3 innings pitched this season, and ranked second with 98 strikeouts and 32 holds. His teammates are amazed at what his Inspector Gadget-like bamboo shoot of a body can produce.
"He's never in the training room," first baseman Darin Erstad said. "For whatever reason, he was given a gift to do that. I don't think he's ever sore, but if he was, he probably wouldn't tell us anyway."
Shields certainly wasn't sore after Tuesday's game. The Angels were headed back to the hotel to finally sleep, and sleeping on a 1-0 lead -- the team's first win in a playoff series opener in its last five tries -- was something the usually tireless setup man was willing to accept.
"He's been doing it all year long," Rodriguez said. "He might not get the credit, but to have a great closer, you have to have a great setup man.
"You're always going to have your ups and downs in a long season. Scot bounced back all the time and he did it again tonight. You can't say enough about him."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.