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So Let Me Introduce To You, The One And Only Jimmy Shields ...

There's no way to sugarcoat this so I'm just going to say it: We live in a world where the Rays and the Marlins are both in first place. It's a world where James Shields outpitches Josh Beckett, where Sweet Caroline is played at Tropicana Field, and where Manny Ramirez is stealing bases. Me no like Bizarro World. Neither do the Red Sox, 3-0 losers to Tampa Bay on Sunday, which completed a three-game sweep.

The Rays are now tied with the Orioles atop the East, and just to confirm what your Far Side desk calendar has already shown you, it's April 28. That means you only have two more days to say "Tampa Bay is in first? Ah well, it's only April." Tampa Bay in first place in May has never occurred in the history of mankind, so get ready. The Rays have won six straight and are not to be trifled with. Shields threw a two-hitter for his first career shutout and Evan Longoria homered for the Rays' first three-game sweep of the Red Sox. Beckett (2-2) struck out a career-high 13 and walked one over seven innings. Of course no one is surprised by all of this more than Rays fans themselves; for the third straight game on Sunday, Red Sox fans outnumbered them at Tropicana. Hope they work that out for next time.


Who Is The Better Pitcher? Arizona's Brandon Webb (6-0, 1.93 ERA), or the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang (5-0, 27 strikeouts)? Discuss.

Your Barry Zito Update. 0-6, 7.53 ERA. He lasted less than four innings for the Giants, while Edinson Volquez (4-0) struck out a career-high 10 over seven innings in the Reds' 10-1 win. Figuring their respective salaries, at the current rate of exchange you can buy 86 Volquez's for one Zito.

What Can Brown Do For You? Joe Blanton outdueled Felix Hernandez as the Athletics ascended to first in the West, beating the Mariners 4-2. Emil Brown's two-run single in the eighth broke it open against Hernandez, who struck out 10 and allowed four hits.

The L's Are Silent; Like The Twins' Bats. A shutout at Rangers Ballpark? Wha? Vicente Padilla (3-2) gave up seven hits and Milton Bradley had a three-run homer as Texas beat Minnesota 10-0.


Blame It On Rios. Alex Rios four hits to help the Blue Jays break a six-game losing streak, 5-2 over the Royals. Rios scored the go-ahead run in the fifth on Scott Rolen's single to left, coming home when left fielder Jose Guillen threw to second base instead of hitting the cutoff man (comical sound effect).

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