MINNEAPOLIS — RHP James Shields shouldered some of the blame for Tuesday's 4-3 loss, saying he let his team down by making an uncharacteristic mistake in the sixth inning.
Shields said he didn't have his best stuff, but he battled through after giving up a two-run homer in the first.
In the sixth after the Rays tied it, however, the Twins loaded the bases thanks to a double and two walks, one intentional.
With two outs, Shields hit Brian Buscher with an inside cutter, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
"Pretty much put that game on me," Shields said. "You can't get the bases loaded and hit a guy to bring a run in. That doesn't happen. I don't think it's ever going to happen again with me.
"I think I let my teammates down as far as that goes. It was a tough loss. I feel if I bear down and actually execute my pitch right there, maybe we win that ball game."
ANOTHER OPTION: Manager Joe Maddon said it kind of feels as if he has three left-handers in his bullpen.
There's LHP Brian Shouse and LHP J.P. Howell and … Joe Nelson?
Nelson is right-handed, but he has been so successful against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .125 average with nine strikeouts, that Maddon has used him against some tough lefties, including Twins 1B Justin Morneau Monday night.
"I like Nelson against lefties a lot," Maddon said. "As much as any left-handed reliever in this league."
CLOSING IN: LHP Scott Kazmir (3-1, 3.97 ERA) comes into tonight's start confident the mechanical issues he has been dealing with are nearly behind him. He pitched six scoreless innings in his last outing, and Maddon was encouraged he made some adjustments and found a rhythm by the third inning.
"It feels like I'm almost there," Kazmir said. "There's sometimes where I kind of feel like I'm out of synch, out of rhythm, and I just feel like I'm really close to not having to worry about it all, just toeing the rubber and throwing it to my location."
With a win, Kazmir will tie the club record through April, matching Andy Sonnanstine's 4-1 mark last season.
PAIN IN NECK: DH Pat Burrell was a late scratch after Maddon said he had a "little bit of a stiff neck." Willy Aybar replaced Burrell, who Maddon said was available to pinch hit and will likely return to the lineup today for the series finale.
IZZY TIZZY: RHP Jason Isringhausen has moved up to Triple-A Durham in his rehab assignment, and Maddon said his next outing will be a two-inning stint before the Rays let him be a regular member of the Bulls bullpen, used in different situations. Maddon said they don't have a timetable, or number of outings, but his velocity has been good, 89-91 mph consistently. What will they do when Isringhausen is ready? "We'll cross that bridge when we get there," Maddon said. "Baseball has this amazing way of answering its own questions."
RIGGANS UPDATE: Maddon said backup C Shawn Riggans, on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, has been "throwing, and throwing well" with no pain. Riggans is scheduled to throw to the bases this weekend and if all goes well could start playing minor-league games.
MISCELLANY: There are plenty of tickets available for the Thursday and Friday games against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field but a limited number for Saturday and Sunday. … Ben Zobrist and Gabe Gross spoke at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes luncheon Tuesday afternoon.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.