After a rough beginning to the season, it appears James Shields has turned things around.
The Tampa Bay starter tries for his third straight win Saturday night when the Rays continue their home series with the Minnesota Twins.
Coming off a 2011 in which he set career bests with 16 wins and a 2.82 ERA, Shields (2-0, 3.38 ERA) opened 2012 by allowing six runs in five innings of a 7-6 loss to the New York Yankees on April 6.
Since then, he gave up two runs in eight innings of a 4-2 victory at Detroit on April 11 and yielded just four singles in 8 1-3 innings of Monday's 1-0 win at Boston.
"Shields didn't give us much to hit," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia told the Rays' official website. "He was on the corners, throwing all his pitches for strikes."
Shields is 3-2 with a 4.69 ERA in nine starts against the Twins, including 2-0 with a 3.90 ERA in four at Tropicana Field.
He hopes to help the Rays (7-7) rebound after they fell 5-4 to Minnesota in Friday's series opener.
"We just have to move on," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, whose team blew a two-run lead by giving up three in the seventh.
Josh Willingham extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a three-run double and Joe Mauer drove in two runs for the Twins (5-9), who are looking to win a series at Tampa Bay for the first time since 2006.
Willingham is batting .333 with five homers and 12 RBIs on the season.
"He's fun to watch," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been on the baseball, that's for sure.''
Mauer, meanwhile, is hitting .443 with 19 RBIs in 18 career games at Tropicana Field. He's batted .381 (8 for 21) versus Shields.
Teammate Justin Morneau, 8 for 23 (.348) with three doubles and a home run off Shields, is likely to be in the lineup after he sat Friday with a sore foot suffered in Thursday's 7-6 loss at New York.
"Everything is fine,'' Gardenhire said. "It's pretty sore, (but) I expect him to be back out there (Saturday)."
Minnesota right-hander Carl Pavano (1-1, 5.23) takes the mound looking to build on Monday's 7-3 victory at Yankee Stadium, where he allowed three runs and struck out six in seven innings.
"Carl has always been a good pitcher," New York captain Derek Jeter said of the former Yankee. "When he's healthy, he pitches well. He mixes it up. He can throw any pitch at any time to anybody. He doesn't throw too many balls over the plate."
Pavano, 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 13 starts versus Tampa Bay, gave up four hits and fanned seven in eight innings of a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Rays on April 14, 2011.
Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria is 2 for 13 against Pavano, but he's homered in each of the Rays' last two games while driving home six runs .
Teammate B.J. Upton, 7 for 16 (.438) with two doubles and a homer off Pavano, went 0 for 3 on Friday in his 2012 debut after beginning the season on the disabled list with a back strain.
- James Shields
- the Rays
- Tampa Bay