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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields saddled with another empty ending

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP James Shields' hard-luck season continued Thursday night with yet another tough loss.

Shields battled through 5-2/3 innings against the Orioles, surrendering just one earned run. But after Shields loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth (because of an error and two walks), he was relieved by RHP Lance Cormier, who gave up a grand slam to Brian Roberts.

Shields (7-10) has won just one of his past 11 starts, but teammates say he deserves a better fate. Shields has received the lowest run support in the American League (3.55), and no other pitcher in the AL has 10 losses and an ERA under 4.00.

"It's been a tough season," Shields said. "It's kind of one of those things where I've been that guy all season long, and every team has it. But I'm battling through it."

Shields tried to fight his way through the sixth, which started with an Evan Longoria throwing error, putting Nolan Reimold at second. With one out, Shields said he pitched around ex-Ray Ty Wigginton knowing it could set up a potential double play, and after a strikeout, he walked Felix Pie after getting ahead 0-and-2. That's when manager Joe Maddon pulled Shields after 106 pitches, a decision the right-hander was fine with. "It was a great effort once again," Maddon said of Shields.

But another one unrewarded.

BACK ON TRACK: DH Pat Burrell is starting to look like what he and the Rays envisioned when he signed a $16 million, two-year deal in the offseason.

He has three straight multihit games for the first time this season and has homered in five of his past 11 games. Since July 7, Burrell has nine homers, 22 RBIs and a .533 slugging percentage. In 52 games before that, Burrell had just three homers, 20 RBIs and a .305 slugging percentage.

"They brought me here to help offensively. And the first half — basically, for a long time — I haven't really been doing much to help," he said. "It was frustrating. But I feel if I can continue to swing the bat well, we are in a situation where we can control our own destiny."

Maddon said part of Burrell's resurgence can be attributed to him staying behind the ball better. But he also said Burrell's "confidence is on the rise."

SWITCH IT UP: Maddon left 1B Carlos Peña out of the starting lineup to get Willy Aybar in, and also because left-handers such as Peña entered 0-for-5 with four strikeouts vs. Orioles LHP Brian Matusz and right-handers were 24-for-55 (.436) with three homers and seven walks. Peña, who pinch hit for Gabe Kapler, should start tonight.

MISCELLANY: 2B Akinori Iwamura continued his rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Durham, going 1-for-1 with three walks as the designated hitter. OF Fernando Perez played centerfield for Durham and went 0-for-5 with an RBI.

Hard-luck James

James Shields has received the lowest run support per nine innings in the American League:

James Shields      Rays   3.55

Jarrod Washburn  Tigers  3.75

Matt Garza      Rays   3.79

Edwin Jackson  Tigers  3.82

Dallas Braden  A's   3.95

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields saddled with another empty ending 08/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 9:26am]

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