ST. PETERSBURG — RHP James Shields entered Sunday's start saying he felt as good as he had all year long.
That continued to show as Shields won his third straight, a 5-3 decision over the Red Sox in front of a national ESPN audience. In doing so, Shields broke two club records, passing LHP Scott Kazmir with his 56th career victory and his 145th start.
"It means a lot," Shields said. "This organization has given me the opportunity to be able to pitch as long as I have here and hopefully I can get a ton more. My focus right now is to get to the playoffs and win a World Series."
Shields, who retired 12 of the first 14 hitters, said he worked off his fastball early and didn't mix in his curveball until the fourth. Shields (13-11) allowed three runs over 6⅔ innings.
"If you can locate your fastball," Shields said, "everything else falls into place."
RARE FEAT: LF Carl Crawford picked a great time to hit his 100th career home run as his two-run blast in the sixth tied the score and, as Shields said, swung the momentum. The homer moved him past Fred McGriff for third place on the club's all-time list and put him in some elite company. Crawford is now the eighth player since 1900 to reach 100 homers, 100 triples and 400 stolen bases, a list that includes Ty Cobb, Lou Brock, Paul Molitor and Tim Raines.
"You get in elite company like that, it feels real good," said Crawford, whose 15 homers have matched his 2009 output. "You feel real proud about the stuff you've been able to accomplish over the years. It makes you want to see how far you can go with it."
SHOWING RUST: RHP Grant Balfour said he felt fine in his first game appearance for Class A Charlotte on Saturday since recovering from an intercostal strain, but he admitted he didn't pitch well, and he and manager Joe Maddon said he might need more than today's scheduled appearance before being activated.
Maddon said the important thing was Balfour felt good physically, but he said Balfour's command was "terrible" in giving up three runs and three walks in two-thirds of an inning.
"It just felt like I haven't pitched in a month, that's what it's been," Balfour said. "You lose it. It's tough just to flick the switch and just be back to exactly where I was."
Before getting hurt in late July during some horseplay with pitching coach Jim Hickey before a game, Balfour was having a strong season (1-1, 2.08 ERA in 44 appearances).
"There's a lot said for going out there, pitching every two or three days," Balfour said. "You keep everything sharp, and you're locked in. When you don't throw for 2½ weeks, and you start playing catch, you've got to get back into shape again. It's tough."
IN THE SWING: New OF/DH/1B Brad Hawpe said his Saturday appearance at Charlotte went well, and he hit the ball hard without any hits to show for it. He took batting practice with the Rays on Sunday and will play for Charlotte today in Bradenton.
Hawpe said he won't be added to the Rays roster until after Tuesday's game, which means they won't have to take someone off the 25-man roster to make room. In that scenario, he wouldn't be automatically eligible for postseason play but could be added as a replacement for a player on the disabled list. The Rays would have at least one of those spots with LHP J.P. Howell on the DL.
MISCELLANY: Maddon said the first wave of September callups will include 4-5 players, with a third catcher (Dioner Navarro) likely. One intriguing name under consideration is LHP prospect Jake McGee, a former starter who has pitched 12⅔ scoreless relief innings since getting promoted to Triple-A Durham. That includes 20 strikeouts and just one walk.
"I've heard nothing but really good things about him," Maddon said. "I do know that he's got the kind of stuff that he's not just limited to getting left-handed hitters out. He's the kind of guy that can get a good righty out also, which makes him exciting as a left-handed relief pitcher."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.