ST. PETERSBURG — Rays right-hander James Shields felt he had the White Sox "on the ropes" Tuesday night, beginning his start with five strong innings.
"I felt really dominant," Shields said, "All up until that last inning."
That was the sixth, when Shields said the White Sox made some adjustments, turning the tables with five straight hits in a five-run rally to help hand the Rays a 7-2 loss in front of 13,735 at Tropicana Field.
Shields wasn't exactly hit hard in the sixth, but a leadoff walk, a wild pitch and some well-placed singles helped the White Sox come from behind to grab their 11th win in the last 12 games.
"They're kind of hot right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And that's how the baseball cookie crumbles once in a while."
The Rays (29-21, still tied for first in the AL East after the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays), who have lost three of their last four, appeared off to a promising start, with veteran Hideki Matsui ripping a two-run homer in the second at-bat of his debut, giving the Rays a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning.
"You think right there you might roll from that particular moment on," Maddon said. "New guy in town comes in, hits homer, top starting pitcher going. But it just didn't work out."
Maddon said Shields had his "typical good stuff," evidenced by his eight strikeouts, but a leadoff walk to Adam Dunn in the sixth helped switch the momentum.
"If I don't walk him right there, I think it's a whole different ballgame," Shields said.
Shields struck out Paul Konerko before giving up a single to Alex Rios. Shields got ahead 0-and-2 on A.J. Pierzynski, who sliced the next pitch to right-center for an RBI single.
"That was probably the biggest hit of the night," Maddon said.
Shields said he made some good pitches, like the low-and-away changeup to Pierzynski, but "it didn't go my way." After a wild pitch, the Rays brought their infield in, and White Sox leftfielder Dayan Viciedo slapped a single in the hole between short and third to score another run. Maddon said the White Sox were moving the ball deep into counts on Shields, which is atypical.
"It seems like a lot of their hits were balls just getting through," Shields said. "Obviously, I've got to bear down in that inning."
The five earned runs allowed by Shields (6-3) were the most he's given up since opening day against the Yankees (six).
"They made some adjustments, they're good hitters over there, you've got to give them credit," Shields said. "But I'm not going to change my approach."
Maddon gave credit to White Sox right-hander Philip Humber, who picked up his first win since his April 21 perfect game against the Mariners, holding the Rays to five hits through seven innings. Humber had been 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA in his previous six starts.
"I know his numbers had been bad this year, but he's pitched well against us in the past and he did again today," Maddon said. "We just weren't at the top of our game."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]