James Shields says that in a pennant race, there's not a lot of time for dwelling on the past.
That's why, Shields said, he enters tonight's start against Baltimore having already turned the page from his outing Saturday, when he gave up a career-high six homers to the Jays.
"I've forgotten about it," Shields said of the loss in which he allowed eight runs over four innings and tied a modern-day record for most home runs in a game. "It's kind of one of those freaky things. I've never given up six home runs in a game, let alone that many in a row (three in a span of four hitters). I feel really good. I threw a bullpen (session Tuesday), and I'm exactly where I need to be. So you kind of forget about it and move on."
The outing was an anomaly to Shields considering he had won his three previous starts, including Aug. 1, when he shut out the Yankees over 7 1/3 innings in arguably one of the best performances of his career.
Manager Joe Maddon said he'd like to see Shields use his fastball more, with a more consistent delivery.
"We're in a race right now," Shields said. "We want to get first place back. My job is to forget about it and move on — try and win my next game."
NEW LOOK: The Rays have taken notice of the resurgence of the last-place Orioles, who enter tonight having won eight of 10 games since Buck Showalter took over as manager.
"I've liked their personnel a lot," Maddon said. "Now they've got (Brian) Roberts back, and they've got (Matt) Wieters back. They've got (Luke) Scott back. That's three major offensive players. Their biggest concern has been their pitching, and their pitching has picked up, too."
Shields said: "Every time I've faced them, their hitters have always been really, really good. I just think they definitely get overlooked."
TIGHTEN UP: The Rays have made just 11 errors over their past 45 games, fewer than any club, which has helped them move from 21st in the majors in fielding percentage to eighth.
Maddon said the defense of this year's team rivals, if not exceeds, the 2008 club that reached the World Series.
"If you want to make a comparison to 2008 to right now, I think it's as good, maybe even a little better," Maddon said. "Whether it's (Reid) Brignac and (Sean) Rodriguez, whoever is at second base, J.B. (Jason Bartlett), Longo's (Evan Longoria) having a great year at third. Carl (Crawford) is the same guy.
"I honestly believe Carl's gotten better in leftfield, and B.J. (Upton has) always been good in center. Our rightfielders, everybody you put out there, is high-caliber."
QUALITY COMBO: Though the Rays have unconventionally split starts at second base between three players — Rodriguez, Brignac and Ben Zobrist — their combined play both offensively and defensively has impressed Maddon.
"Put together our second basemen's numbers, we've got a really good second baseman," Maddon said of the trio, which has combined for 19 homers and 119 RBIs. "I mean, it rivals the best second baseman in the American League this year. You put together the homers, the RBIs just at second base, we've had a good position."
Maddon said it's a credit to Bartlett, who has been able to handle three double-play partners.
"You'd think sometimes a shortstop playing with all those different guys would have a little bit more trouble with it," Maddon said. "But he has not. I think it's a combination of things, part of it is how good J.B. is, part of it is the ability of our second basemen."
Rocco moves up: Rocco Baldelli was promoted to Triple-A Durham after hitting .283 with Class A Charlotte in the first 12 games of his comeback attempt.