Tampa Bay (36-19) at Texas (29-25)

Fair Currently: Arlington, TX
Temp: 62° F
  • Game info: 4:10 pm EDT Sat Jun 5, 2010
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

James Shields(notes) believes he’s better than what his last performance would indicate, but may have a tough time proving it at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Shields looks to help the Rays bounce back from another poor game on the mound at Texas as they face the Rangers on Saturday.

The most recent start couldn’t have been much worse for Shields (5-3, 3.62 ERA), who gave up a season-high seven runs and 11 hits Sunday in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-5 loss to Chicago. The right-hander had been 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA over his previous seven outings.

“For me, it’s unacceptable,” he said. “I’m better than that. I guess we’ve got to move on.”

Shields has been an otherwise steady pitcher for the AL East-leading Rays, but is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in two road starts against the Rangers (29-25). He’s not the only Tampa Bay pitcher who has struggled at Texas.

The Rays (36-19) lead the American League with a 3.28 ERA, but gave up 13 hits Friday in a 9-6 loss to open this three-game series. Tampa Bay has lost six of its last seven at Rangers Ballpark, and has posted a 10.10 ERA during its last six contests there.

Texas, meanwhile, has won 12 of its last 15 at home, averaging 6.1 runs.

Winners of three of four overall, the Rangers had another strong game at the plate Friday as Vladimir Guerrero(notes) returned to the lineup and had a three-run double after missing two games because of a swollen left eye.

Guerrero is hitting .415 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last 14 games versus Tampa Bay. The eight-time All-Star leads Texas with 12 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .333 average.

Texas also got a strong performance from rookie first baseman Justin Smoak(notes), who had a homer and a career-high three hits. The 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft and the organization’s top hitting prospect, Smoak was batting .167 last week but an 8-for-17 stretch has pushed his average to .208.

“One of the things is I’ve tried to stay relaxed,” he said. “That’s hard to do at this level. You have to let it happen, you can’t make it happen.”

The Rangers may need another productive game from their lineup if starting pitcher Tommy Hunter(notes) is rusty in his season debut. Hunter is ready to rejoin the club after being slowed by a left oblique strain in spring training.

The right-hander went 9-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts as a rookie last year, including a 1-0 record with a 3.48 ERA in two starts against the Rays.

Tampa Bay had catcher Kelly Shoppach(notes) in the lineup for the first time since April 10, but may decide to rest him in the series’ middle game due to the quick turnaround. The Fort Worth native went 1 for 2 in his first game since undergoing right knee surgery April 19.

Shoppach, signed as a free agent in January, hit 33 homers in 623 at-bats for Cleveland from 2008-09. If Shoppach doesn’t play, Dioner Navarro(notes) will likely be behind the plate for the Rays.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Shields SD vs. T. Hunter Bal
13-15 Record 13-4
5.18 ERA 3.73
187 K 68
51 BB 33
1.46 WHIP 1.24

Scoreboard

Saturday, Jun 5