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James Shields is good enough to help Tampa Bay Rays end losing streak

BALTIMORE — RHP James Shields settled on "pretty good" to describe Sunday's start. "One pitch away," he said, "from a really good outing."

The two-run home run he allowed to Matt Wieters with two outs and a full count in the sixth turned what had looked like an easy Rays win into a tense afternoon, but it all ended well.

The Rays snapped a three-game losing streak, the fourth time already this season they've won with Shields on the mound following a loss. And with his sixth victory, Shields is atop the American League and sharing the major-league lead with St. Louis' Lance Lynn.

"That's a big win," Shields said. "We never like getting swept, so that was a big win. Hopefully we'll have some momentum going into Toronto these next two games."

UPTON DOWN: CF B.J. Upton was as happy as any of the Rays with the win, mainly because of how bad of a day he had:

Striking out in his first four at-bats (tying the team record), getting picked off (though ending up safe at second) after a walk, and failing to hang on for what would have been a spectacular — but, he admitted, makeable — catch at the wall in the seventh.

"Describe my day? Malo. If I was fluent in Spanish, that's exactly what I would say, malo, which means bad," Upton said. "But, you know what, it's over with."

After going 16-for-48 with eight strikeouts in his first 14 games, Upton is 2-for-22 with 11 whiffs in his past six. "I don't know how you go from being so locked in to that, but it is baseball," he said.

JENNINGS DECISION: LF Desmond Jennings was not in the lineup for the sixth straight game, and it sounds like placement on the disabled list is a real possibility if there isn't improvement in his sprained left knee soon. He has been at the same status, with some soreness, for the past several days.

"We have to watch Desmond very closely; if it's not showing real progress then we may have to re-evaluate it," manager Joe Maddon said. "Not quite yet, but we have to make a decision pretty soon."

INTERFERED: C Chris Gimenez doesn't have an explanation for being called for interference a major-league-most three times in his first 15 games behind the plate, certain he is setting up far enough back and not creeping forward.

"I'm not up in there, I don't try to be, I don't want to be," he said. "I've had issues in the past where I've been so close I get hit by backswings, so ever since then I just back way off. … I have no idea how this keeps happening. I'm in the same spot every time."

MEDICAL MATTERS: INF Sean Rodriguez said the soreness on the left side of his chest is the result of diving for two balls Saturday, not Friday's home plate collision with Wieters. … OF/1B Brandon Allen is showing improvement with his quad strain and could start a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as Wednesday.

MISCELLANY: SS Elliot Johnson and RF Ben Zobrist teamed in the eighth for the Rays' first back-to-back homers of the season. … Johnson's homer ended a stretch in which Orioles relievers had retired 30 of 31 Rays. … Rodriguez's hitting streak ended at 10. … Fernando Rodney improved to 10-for-10 in saves. … The Rays are 7-8 on Mother's Day.

James Shields is good enough to help Tampa Bay Rays end losing streak 05/13/12 [Last modified: Sunday, May 13, 2012 9:22pm]
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