ST. PETERSBURG — RHP James Shields enters tonight's start against the Blue Jays with the tough task of topping his last outing, a three-hit shutout against the A's.
But Shields has experience providing encores, including three consecutive complete games in June 2011 during his All-Star season.
"I've done it before, so I'm just going to go out there and try to get a quality start, and just try to get a win," he said. "Right now it's all about winning, go out there and just fight and give us a chance to win. This is kind of crunch time right now these last couple months, and we're right in the thick of things, which is right where we want to be, so we're just trying to get a win."
Shields said what he liked most about his last start — when he struck out 11 and walked none while throwing 98 pitches — was his direction toward the plate in his delivery. It resulted in what he called his best fastball location in a while.
"I was really in control of my body throughout the entire game," Shields said. "I had a really good angle on my fastball, which I was very pleased with, and in this case a little more movement north and south. Hopefully I can go out and repeat that and have a good last couple of months here."
The Jays lineup will have a much different look from the one that Shields faced in mid May, with slugging OF Jose Bautista and C J.P. Arencibia among the many players lost to injury. Toronto still ranks third in the AL in runs (522).
"I don't think there's an advantage, but they're probably a little more free-swinging I'd imagine," Shields said. "Losing Bautista definitely kind of puts a damper on their lineup, but they have some good guys that came up from Triple A and they picked up. They're still a good team, they can bang, you've just got to keep them at bay."
TAKING STOCK: Maddon said last year's remarkable run, coming from 9 1/2 games back in September to clinch the AL wild card, can help the Rays this season as they battle with several teams for a playoff spot.
"It makes it more believable," Maddon said. "That's all it needs to be, is believable. If you know we've done something in the past, and believe you can in the future, definitely I think it has a better chance to play out.
"Furthermore, I think other teams that are in front of us know that we're capable of doing this also."
OUT AND ABOUT: OF Matt Joyce went to Lakeland on Monday to participate in a ribbon cutting for a new clubhouse at Florida Southern. … LHP David Price, CF B.J. Upton and LF Desmond Jennings will wrap up the 2012 Rays Dugout Club today with a final visit to each of their six rec centers in South St. Petersburg.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]