The visiting Rays might catch a break by not needing to face Johnson on Sunday when they try to avoid being swept by the Marlins for the first time in four years.
With a 3-1 record and 1.64 ERA, Johnson had been scheduled to start the series finale before the Marlins decided to place him on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Though the right-hander is also 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA in five starts against the Rays, Maddon was excited for the challenge of facing one of the game’s best.
“People might think I’m nuts, but I really would have liked to see him pitch Sunday,” Maddon said. “I like the idea of facing the best. You see how you stack up. Hopefully we’ll get him next time.”
“(Johnson is) impossible to replace,” Buente said. “I’ll just go out and be the pitcher I’ve been up to this point.”
Buente was 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 10 games - five starts - at New Orleans. One of the right-hander’s eight major-league appearances last season came against the Rays. He allowed one run and three walks in an inning of work.
The Rays hope to get the best of Buente as they try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss overall and their first sweep at the hands of the Marlins (26-18) since 2007.
Scoring has not come easily for Tampa Bay, which has averaged 3.1 runs while losing six of its last eight. The Rays managed five hits and didn’t score until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 5-3 defeat.
Third baseman Evan Longoria(notes) may be one of the Rays who are pressing. He went 0 for 3 with a walk Saturday and if 1 for 18 in his last five games, dropping his batting average to .211. He is also 1 for 20 in his last six games against Florida.
After ace David Price(notes) allowed all five runs in 6 2-3 innings Saturday, Tampa Bay’s James Shields(notes) (4-2, 2.26 ERA) takes the ball looking to bounce back from his first defeat since his season debut.
The right-hander had been 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in seven starts since that loss before he allowed four runs and eight hits - including two homers to Alex Rodriguez(notes) - and struck out nine in seven innings of a 6-2 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday. Shields has allowed four home runs his last three starts after giving up three the previous six.
Shields, who is 2-2 with a 5.91 ERA in seven starts versus Florida, matched a career high when he allowed 10 runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 14-9 loss to the Marlins on June 11.
Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez(notes) is 8 for 21 with a home run off Shields. He also homered Saturday to extend his home hitting streak against the Rays to 13 games. Ramirez is batting .380 with four homers and eight RBIs during that stretch.