Scott Kazmir(notes) and James Shields(notes) were the postseason anchors of the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation two years ago, but Kazmir is with the Los Angeles Angels and Shields has been the Rays’ worst starter in 2010.
Eying another October run, Tampa Bay would love more starts like Shields’ latest effort.
The former teammates square off for the first time in Monday night’s series opener at Angels Stadium, where Shields tries to equal Kazmir’s franchise record for wins as he matches the left-hander’s 144 starts.
Kazmir (8-10, 6.40 ERA) saw his one-time status as Tampa Bay’s ace disappear with his dreadful 2009, and by late August he found himself traded to the Angels (62-63). Shields (11-11, 4.82), meanwhile, has given way to David Price(notes), Jeff Niemann(notes) and Matt Garza(notes) atop the Rays’ rotation.
He’s shown he’s still capable of giving Tampa Bay (76-48) an experienced arm down the stretch, though. After consecutive losses in which he gave up 12 runs in nine innings, Shields held Texas to two runs - one earned - and four hits over seven innings in an 8-6 win Wednesday.
Monday will be his 144th career start - tying Kazmir for the franchise high - and he can also match the southpaw’s team record with his 54th victory. Shields is 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA in eight starts against the Angels.
To get there, he’ll likely have to keep the ball in the park. Shields has given up an AL-high 29 homers, and Los Angeles designated hitter Hideki Matsui(notes) is 8 for 19 with three homers against him.
Shields can pitch the Rays to a third straight victory Monday after they escaped with a four-game split in Oakland. After dropping the series’ first two games by a run, Tampa Bay turned the tables in the final two, including a 3-2 victory Sunday.
“To be able to come back and salvage a split I think is great and does speak to the character of the group,” manager Joe Maddon told the Rays’ official website. “They’re alive, man. They’re in the dugout, they’re alive. The pitchers that aren’t playing, they’re kind of entertaining. It’s a great situation.”
Tampa Bay stayed within a game of the Yankees in the AL East, but the Angels dropped yet another game as they try to track down Texas in the West. Los Angeles was held to six hits in a 4-0 loss at Minnesota on Sunday, finishing its road trip 2-4 and falling eight games behind the Rangers.
This is Kazmir’s second start against his former club after giving up three runs and seven hits over five innings in a 7-2 home loss May 11.
The southpaw surrendered four runs and eight hits - two homers - over five innings Wednesday at Boston, leaving without a decision in a 7-5 loss.
“I felt good, felt like I was attacking the zone, but I wasn’t hitting my spots tonight,” Kazmir said.
Including the loss to Tampa Bay, Kazmir is 0-5 with a 7.30 ERA in his last five home starts.
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