ARLINGTON, Texas — Manager Joe Maddon didn't feel the need to address the Rays hitters about his desire for a more determined effort, figuring the message would spread naturally.
Watching James Shields pitch Wednesday should have taken care of it.
The Rays bounced back from Tuesday's challenge-inducing blanking to score four times, but the reason for Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Rangers was Shields' domination — and determination.
"He exemplifies that all the time," Maddon said. "That's who he is. You could just see he wanted to do that — it was all about pitching deep into that game. … He had a certain resolve about him today that he was going to pitch late into that game and get us a win."
The Rays needed it, having lost two straight, as they get to September at 74-61 and 7½ games behind the AL wild card-leading Yankees. That's not as close as they hoped but enough to feel they have a chance to close the gap over the final month.
"We've got to win," Shields said. "We've got to win. The starters have been doing a phenomenal job. Our bullpen has been fresh and they've been doing a great job. Our defense has been playing well.
"That's all you can really ask for right now. We've been scattering runs here and there, and we've been hitting the ball a lot better lately. So it definitely gives us hope to win a lot of ballgames here in September."
Shields overcame a shaky first to battle the Texas heat — 102 degrees at first pitch — and their hot bats to post eight shutout innings, scattering four hits, walking one and striking out seven.
A pitch count of 110 kept him from a chance for his 11th complete game, but there were some other milestones as he matched his 13 wins from last season (one off his career high) with nearly half the ERA, 2.84 compared to 5.18, and notched his 1,000th career strikeout.
"I'm pretty proud of that," he said. "I never really considered myself a strikeout pitcher, but to get 1,000 strikeouts is pretty special."
Shields — who abbreviated his pregame warmup as a concession to the heat — loaded the bases with one out in the first on two singles and a walk, but he got Mike Napoli to hit a ground ball that Evan Longoria turned into a double play, and he just rolled from there.
Shields didn't allow another baserunner until Elvis Andrus tripled with two outs in the sixth, having retired 15 in a row, then got another huge out by striking out Josh Hamilton to end the inning. He struck out the side in the seventh, with the last, David Murphy, the 1,000th member of Shields' fan club, with catcher John Jaso flipping him back the milestone.
"Shields yelled at me to give him the ball back," Jaso said. "How many more does he have to go to get the record? What did Nolan Ryan have, 4,000?"
The offense, with Maddon noting better approaches, came in small bursts: A Jaso single and a Desmond Jennings walk with the bases loaded in the second, a two-out RBI single by Matt Joyce and a home run by Johnny Damon.
Then they hung on in the ninth as closer Kyle Farnsworth, pitching for the first time since Aug. 23 after a bout of elbow tenderness, got two quick outs then allowed three hits and a run before wrapping it up.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]