RHP James Shields said he had his best pregame bullpen session of the season Sunday. While that doesn't always translate into a good outing, it did for Shields.
Shields held the Rangers to two hits and tossed his second complete-game shutout of the season in the Rays 6-0 victory.
"I felt really good going into the game," he said. "My mechanics felt really good. I was just attacking the zone."
Shields allowed an infield single to RF Nelson Cruz to start the second inning then retired the next 19 batters before LF David Murphy singled to center with two out in the eighth.
"He was Big Game James," said CF B.J. Upton, who's franchise record-tying three home runs helped power the offense.
Shields is 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last eight starts. The run began with a three-hit shutout in Oakland. Given the choice between the two gems, Shields said he would pick Sunday's outing as his best of the season.
"I kind of like this game a little more. It means a little more," he said. "Obviously September baseball is huge and getting any kind of win is big, but especially against that lineup. As far as I'm concerned, that's the best hitting lineup in the major leagues one through nine, not to mention they have a bunch of guys on the bench who can swing it, too. That's a good team over there. They can do some damage at any time."
The Rangers lead the majors in hitting and the American League in nearly every meaningful offensive category. But the Rays pitching held the Rangers to a .141 batting average and five runs in the three games.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Chris Archer and Shields each threw quality starts against the Rangers.
"We've been pitching pretty well lately," Shields said. "We're just trying to keep that momentum going, trying to feed off each other. It was nice to give that bullpen a little breather (Sunday) after a couple of extra inning games. That's what we're here to do, to pitch well and win ball games."
The Rays were 4-2 on the homestand facing the Yankees and the Rangers largely because the pitching staff combined for a 2.21 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 57 innings while holding the opposing batters to a .169 average.
A good sign for Peña?
1B Carlos Peña, dropped to eighth in the order for the first time this season, stuck out for the 166 time this season, trying his franchise record set in 2008.
He also had two hits and both were to left field.
"He's staying closed (in his batting stance) more and is thinking that way," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "Since Sept. 1 he's trying to be as simple as possible."
Peña had two hits to left field in the same game for the first time since Opening Day. It was only the third time since the start of 2010 that he did that twice in one game.
LF Desmond Jennings missed his second game with a stiff lower back. He said before Sunday's game that it felt better and that he expects to return to the lineup Tuesday in Baltimore.
"There's still a pretty good chance he'll play Tuesday," manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm not sure yet."
Maddon said LHP David Price is still scheduled to throw his bullpen Tuesday. Price missed Saturday's start because of a sore left shoulder, but is expected to face the Yankees at the end of the week … The Rays were just 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position in the three games against the Rangers … The Rays out-homered the Yankees and Rangers 11-4 during the homestand … The 2 hour, 15 minute game time was the shortest of the season for the Rays … It was the 14th shutout of the season for the Rays. The Angels lead the majors with 15.