ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged before Thursday's game they need to get more — specifically, innings — out of their starting rotation.
And typically, James Shields has been one of their best workhorses, grinding through innings, especially at home.
But as the Rays opened an eight-game homestand (against the last-place Indians and A's) with an 11-7 loss to Cleveland and heard boos from some of the 17,169 at Tropicana Field, Shields continued their trend of doing things they didn't typically do last season.
Shields said his "emotions got the best of me," after a two-out error in the fifth, after which he gave up three unearned runs to make it a 5-0 game. The bullpen, one of the league's best last season, continued its inconsistencies, negating a late rally.
Shields became the third straight starter not to last more than five innings, and another loss dropped Tampa Bay (16-20) closer to last in the American League East.
"I believe our best baseball is ahead of us," Maddon said. "But I can't fault anybody for questioning the record right now."
The Rays played without three regulars. Leftfielder Carl Crawford (bruised right shoulder) and designated hitter Pat Burrell (inflammation in neck) are day to day, and catcher Dioner Navarro got the day off until pinch-hitting in the ninth.
And the short-handed offense had to dig out of a big hole, trailing 9-0 by the sixth.
Shields' night started strong. He said he had his good stuff in striking out five in the first three innings. But the Indians scored two in the fourth on four singles then added three unearned runs in the fifth.
Shields appeared to have gotten out of the inning unscathed, but Akinori Iwamura bobbled a potential inning-ending grounder by Asrubal Cabrera. Victor Martinez and Shin-Soo Choo followed with doubles to make it 5-0. Shields ended up matching his season highs in runs allowed (five) and hits (10).
"I kind of lost focus. My emotions got the best of me," Shields said. "After the error, I've got to bear down and focus in on it."
The bullpen didn't fare any better. In the sixth, the Indians pounced on Joe Nelson for four runs in a two-out rally that included two doubles and a homer.
"When you come in down 5-0, your job is to keep it right there," Nelson said. "I didn't make the pitches when I needed to, and it ended up costing us."
The Rays showed some life in the sixth. B.J. Upton walked and stole two bases before pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler walked, too. Later, Willy Aybar had an RBI single and Gabe Gross an RBI double.
But the biggest hit came from Ben Zobrist, who ripped a three-run homer into the rightfield seats to cut it to 9-6. It was his sixth homer of the season.
The Indians, whose 13 wins entering Thursday were tied for second fewest in the majors, typically have had the Rays' number. Tampa Bay's 28-61 record against them is its worst among AL opponents.
"We bring out the best in Cleveland," Maddon said. "I've only seen that team good. I can't understand how they've ever struggled."