Kansas City (49-66) at Tampa Bay (60-54)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 90° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Tue Aug 9, 2011
  • TV: FSKC, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

James Shields(notes) has been a model of inconsistency over the last month for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The All-Star right-hander hopes to snap that trend and win consecutive starts for the first time in more than six weeks Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field.

Shields (10-9, 2.95 ERA) is 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA in his last five starts, a stretch that began when he allowed an unearned run in a complete-game 1-0 loss at Yankee Stadium on July 10.

He returned from the All-Star break to give up six runs in six innings of a loss to Boston on July 16, but followed that by beating the Yankees with 7 2-3 strong innings in a 2-1 win five days later.

Shields was unable to build on that performance and yielded a season-high 10 runs in four innings of a 13-4 loss at Oakland on July 27, but bounced back to limit Toronto to one run and three hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 9-1 win Wednesday.

The Rays (60-54) have totaled just six runs over their last three games, but Shields hopes for another offensive barrage from his teammates as he tries to win back-to-back starts for the first time since a three-game run June 14-24.

“I’ll tell you what, whenever I have a lead or any pitcher on our staff has a lead, we tend to feel a little more comfortable out there,” Shields told the Rays’ official website. “We can attack the zone a little bit more. And really focus on making our pitches.”

Shields often led during his first five career starts against the Royals, going 5-0 with a 2.50 ERA, but he’s 0-2 with a 7.13 ERA in the last three meetings. He allowed seven runs and 12 hits in five-plus innings of a 7-0 loss at Kansas City on Oct. 1.

The Rays didn’t lead in Monday’s 2-1 win until Casey Kotchman’s(notes) tiebreaking homer in the ninth helped them avoid a third consecutive defeat.

“Just happy to get the ‘W,’” said Kotchman, who had his second straight three-hit game and drove in both runs.

Among the major league leaders with a career-best .341 average, Kotchman is 16 for 32 with three home runs and six RBIs in his last eight games.

“How about Casey?” manager Joe Maddon said. “Kotch has been hitting like that all year. It’s fun to watch.”

Kotchman is 5 for 14 in his last three versus Kansas City (49-66), which has dropped three of four after winning five of seven.

Despite dealing with a sprained ankle, Melky Cabrera(notes) was 2 for 4 on Monday, but the Royals went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Cabrera is 6 for 17 against the Rays this season but just 4 for 19 in his career versus Shields.

Scheduled starter Jeff Francis(notes) (4-11, 4.48) allowed three runs and struck out six in five innings of the Royals’ 5-4, 10-inning win July 23 in his first career appearance versus Tampa Bay.

After giving up four hits in eight innings of a 12-0 victory at Cleveland on July 29 for his first win in eight starts, the left-hander yielded four runs and 10 hits in five innings Thursday and did not factor in the decision of a 9-4 victory over Baltimore.

Kansas City rookie Eric Hosmer(notes) went 1 for 3 with an RBI in his first major league game in his home state Monday.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Francis Tor vs. J. Shields SD
6-16 Record 16-12
4.82 ERA 2.82
91 K 225
39 BB 65
1.44 WHIP 1.04

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Aug 9