Rays throw Shields at Twins in Target Field capper
(Sports Network) - A pair of 10-game winners will square off Sunday afternoon when the Minnesota Twins try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays.
James Shields will take the hill for the Rays, who sits at 10-7 with a 4.08 ERA.
Shields had a terrible stretch from June 23 through July 26 where he allowed four earned runs or more six times and won just one of his seven starts, but in the two starts since then he's been spectacular.
The veteran right-hander tossed a three-hit shutout against the Athletics on July 31, where he matched a season-high with 11 strikeouts. He followed that up with another gem in a win over the Blue Jays on Aug. 7, allowing just two hits and one earned run over eight innings while striking out six.
"(I've) stayed aggressive," Shields said following his last start. "I think I've turned the corner. Hopefully I get on a little roll here."
Shields has beaten the Twins once already this season, pitching eight innings of one-run ball on April 21.
Minnesota will counter with Scott Diamond, who has been the team's most productive starter this season with a 10-5 record and a 2.91 ERA.
Diamond added to an already stellar rookie campaign in his last outing, allowing just two earned runs in seven innings of work in a 14-3 win over the Indians on Aug. 6. The win made Diamond the Twins' first 10-game winner since 2010.
The left-hander has been especially great at home, going 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA in nine starts at Target Field this season.
On Saturday night, the Rays took control of the series by claiming a 4-2 victory.
For the second straight night, the majority of Tampa Bay's damage came very early in the game, as both B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce homered in the first inning to get the Rays out to a 3-0 lead. Upton added another long ball later in the game, his 12th of the year.
David Price (15-4) continued his dominating campaign, allowing seven hits and two earned runs over seven innings of work, striking out five and walked none. The left-hander has now won seven straight decisions.
"We want to get into October, first and foremost, but we want to hang another banner," Price said. "We're playing our best baseball right now that we have all season. We've put ourselves in position."
Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth innings for his major-league leading 35th save.
Nick Blackburn (4-8) was knocked around for 11 hits and four earned runs over six innings. He hasn't won since June 22.
Darin Mastroianni and Brian Dozier knocked in the only runs for the Twins, with Dozier's coming on his sixth homer of the season.
The Rays have now won five in a row and 10 of their last 13.