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James Shields pounded as Tampa Bay Rays fall 8-4 to Baltimore Orioles, lose ground to New York Yankees

BALTIMORE — The Rays offered some perspective Saturday.

From the mound, where James Shields thought his rough outing in the 8-4 loss to the Orioles was more about bad luck than bad pitches.

And from the clubhouse, where they insisted there was no concern, or consternation, about dropping further behind the do-they-ever-lose Yankees.

"It's kind of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We're not at the end of the movie yet," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We have not arrived at the last scene. We're still at, 'Who are those guys?' "

Saturday, they were the guys who took a 1-0 lead on John Jaso's leadoff homer, gave it right back, fell further behind and didn't do much against Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie to catch up, at least until it was too late, with Matt Joyce and Brad Hawpe homering with two outs in the ninth.

The Rays dropped to 83-52 and 2½ games — their largest deficit in nearly a month — in the AL East behind the Yankees, who won their season-high eighth straight and 14th in 18 games.

"We don't care about what they're doing," Carlos Peña said. "Obviously we would prefer for them to lose, but we're more concerned about us getting our wins. And it's the truth: We want to win this division, but the only way we're going to do that is if we take care of our business."

That has been their plan from the start, and certainly with 27 games remaining — including seven with the Yankees — it's a distinct possibility.

But just in case, there was some good news on the Plan B front, as the Red Sox lost both games of a doubleheader, giving the Rays a 7½-game margin in the wild-card race (and eight over the White Sox, who did the sweeping). And the Rays head next to Boston to deal.

In his previous start, Shields took a place of honor in Rays history by taking over the franchise lead in victories. Saturday, he made a different kind of news, joining Tanyon Sturtze and Ryan Rupe as the only Rays to allow 30 homers in a season.

Worse, it happened right after Jaso's homer, a strategy that hasn't worked out too well as Jaso also had a leadoff blast in the 12-3 loss at Anaheim.

Shields had bigger issues in the third. He loaded the bases on three singles, citing the "bad luck" of a Ty Wigginton ground ball to third that Evan Longoria couldn't make a routine play on because he was breaking toward the bag.

More misfortune followed as Shields felt he had Luke Scott struck out, but the umpires disagreed, ruling he had checked his swing. The walk forced in a run, then an out later Shields made his biggest mistake, as Matt Wieters laced a two-run double.

"I felt I should have been out of the inning," Shields said.

When he gave up a one-out double in the fifth, he was out of the game, having allowed five runs (with a sixth to come) on eight hits, replaced by Jeremy Hellickson, whose relief debut didn't go well, either.

Shields wasn't happy with the decision, especially after 41/3 innings and 76 pitches, but wasn't as flippant as Matt Garza on Friday.

"I don't know what the reason was," Shields said, "but I'm sure he had a good reason."

Maybe it was just a matter of perspective.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

James Shields pounded as Tampa Bay Rays fall 8-4 to Baltimore Orioles, lose ground to New York Yankees 09/04/10 [Last modified: Sunday, September 5, 2010 1:11am]
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