Shields looks to win his fourth straight start and stay unbeaten on the season when he takes the mound in Friday’s interleague series opener against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
The Devil Rays (29-35) have finished with the worst record in the AL East eight times in their nine-year history, and are 11 1/2 games back of first-place Boston in the division this season.
Tampa Bay was outscored 15-1 in losing its last two games at home to San Diego, and once again turns to Shields (6-0, 3.04 ERA) to get back on track.
Shields has posted a 2.70 ERA to win his last three starts, all of which came after a Devil Rays loss.
“When he’s on the mound, our guys feel like they have a real chance to win,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “When you look at the more successful clubs, they have a few guys like that, and that’s the direction we want to be headed.”
The right-hander gave up two runs, six hits and struck out nine in seven innings of a 7-2 win over Florida on Saturday, his 10th straight start of at least seven innings.
“I’ve been making my pitches, and when you do that and go deep into the game, it makes a difference,” said Shields, who has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 outings.
He is 3-1 with a 4.26 ERA in six career interleague starts, although this will be his first against the Rockies.
The Devil Rays lost 7-1 to the Padres on Thursday, but have won four of their last five on the road. They have not won three straight away from Tropicana Field since Sept. 25-28, 2005.
Colorado (33-33) defeated AL East-leading Boston 7-1 on Thursday, getting back to .500 for the first time since it was 5-5 on April 13.
The Rockies have won 15 of their last 21 games, and are 6-0-1 in their last seven series.
Third baseman Garrett Atkins went 3-for-5 with a grand slam Thursday, bouncing back nicely after going 3-for-20 (.150) with one RBI in his previous six games.
“I know I’m a good hitter,” said Atkins, who has only five homers this season after hitting a career-high 29 in 2006. “I’ve had two bad months of swings, but we’ve got four months left.”
Rodrigo Lopez (2-0, 2.88) looks to continue his solid season for the Rockies.
Colorado is 5-1 in Lopez’s starts this season, and the right-hander has given up two or fewer runs in four of those games.
Facing his former club on Saturday, Lopez limited Baltimore to two runs, six hits and one walk in seven innings of a 3-2, 10-inning victory.
Lopez is a familiar face to the Rays, who faced him frequently while he was on the AL East rival Orioles from 2002-06. He is 10-6 with a 4.37 ERA in 19 games, including 14 starts, lifetime against Tampa Bay.
The Rockies swept the Devil Rays in three games the last time these clubs met at Coors Field, June 21-23, 2002.