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Shields pitches Rays past Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Rangers Ballpark has never been high on James Shields’ list of favorite road venues. Maybe that will change.

Shields pitched eight shutout innings, Johnny Damon homered and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the AL West-leading Texas Rangers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Shields had struggled in his three previous road starts against Texas, going 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA while yielding 22 hits and five homers.

Not this time.

Shields (13-10) allowed four hits, walked one and struck out seven, giving him 1,001 for his career and 199 for the season. He threw 110 pitches before Kyle Farnsworth finished Tampa Bay’s 10th victory in the last 15 games.

“This was the best I’ve pitched in this ballpark,” Shields said. “It’s nice to pitch well here.”

With better run support this season, Shields would have more victories, which would have boosted his Cy Young Award candidacy. His ERA is 0.66 in his 13 wins this season.

“He has how many wins? Thirteen? It could be 16 or 17 easily,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That would put him into that Cy Young conversation. He still should be in it. He had a certain resolve tonight. That’s who he is. He’s all about pitching deep into games.”

David Murphy hit a two-out RBI single for Texas in the ninth, but Farnsworth struck out Yorvit Torrealba to end the game.

Shields escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first when Mike Napoli grounded into a double play. The right-hander then retired the next 14 batters, a streak that ended when Elvis Andrus tripled with two outs in the sixth.

No big deal — Shields promptly struck out Josh Hamilton to end the inning, leaving Andrus on third.

For Shields, the key was inducing Napoli to hit into the double play started by third baseman Evan Longoria.

“He’s not a double play candidate as far as hitting ground balls,” Shields said. “It was the pitch I wanted, a slider down and away, and he rolled over it.”

The Rangers, losers of five of eight, made a couple of trades earlier Wednesday to strengthen their roster, acquiring reliever Mike Gonzalez and bringing back catcher Matt Treanor.

But Shields spoiled the night for the Rangers with a dominant performance.

“After the first inning when we didn’t get him, he started pitching,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He did a great job … changed speeds, kept us off balance.”

Texas starter Alexi Ogando (12-7) won his first seven decisions this season after being converted from reliever to starter during spring training. But he’s dropped four of his last six decisions after lasting only 2 2-3 innings against the Rays, allowing three runs and five hits.

Ogando pitched four innings in his previous start, yielding six runs and six hits in a 6-0 loss to AL East-leading Boston.

For Ogando, the innings keep piling up. He has thrown 154 innings this season after logging 73 1-3 last season for the Rangers and two minor league teams.

But Ogando insists that his right arm isn’t wearing down.

“I feel like these last outings, I’ve been losing the strike zone,” Ogando said through a translator. “I feel good physically, but I don’t have that feeling for the strike zone. I’m confused. My body feels good but my arm doesn’t do what I want it to.”

The Rays struck for two runs in the second. John Jaso had a bloop RBI single and Desmond Jennings forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk.

Matt Joyce knocked out Ogando with an RBI single in the third, and Damon connected against Koji Uehara in the seventh for his 14th homer.


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Posted by on Sep 1 2011. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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