Rays-Angels Preview

Scott Kazmir and James Shields were the postseason anchors of
the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation two years ago, but Kazmir is with the
Los Angeles Angels and Shields has been the Rays’ worst starter in
2010.

Eying another October run, Tampa Bay would love more starts like
Shields’ latest effort.

The former teammates square off for the first time in Monday
night’s series opener at Angels Stadium, where Shields tries to
equal Kazmir’s franchise record for wins as he matches the
left-hander’s 144 starts.

Kazmir (8-10, 6.40 ERA) saw his one-time status as Tampa Bay’s
ace disappear with his dreadful 2009, and by late August he found
himself traded to the Angels (62-63). Shields (11-11, 4.82),
meanwhile, has given way to David Price, Jeff Niemann and Matt
Garza atop the Rays’ rotation.

He’s shown he’s still capable of giving Tampa Bay (76-48) an
experienced arm down the stretch, though. After consecutive losses
in which he gave up 12 runs in nine innings, Shields held Texas to
two runs – one earned – and four hits over seven innings in an 8-6
win Wednesday.

Monday will be his 144th career start – tying Kazmir for the
franchise high – and he can also match the southpaw’s team record
with his 54th victory. Shields is 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA in eight
starts against the Angels.

To get there, he’ll likely have to keep the ball in the park.
Shields has given up an AL-high 29 homers, and Los Angeles
designated hitter Hideki Matsui is 8 for 19 with three homers
against him.

Angels RBI leader Torii Hunter, 5 for 18 without an RBI versus
Shields, hasn’t driven in a run in 10 games.

Shields can pitch the Rays to a third straight victory Monday
after they escaped with a four-game split in Oakland. After
dropping the series’ first two games by a run, Tampa Bay turned the
tables in the final two, including a 3-2 victory Sunday.

“To be able to come back and salvage a split I think is great
and does speak to the character of the group,” manager Joe Maddon
told the Rays’ official website. “They’re alive, man. They’re in
the dugout, they’re alive. The pitchers that aren’t playing,
they’re kind of entertaining. It’s a great situation.”

Tampa Bay stayed within a game of the Yankees in the AL East,
but the Angels dropped yet another game as they try to track down
Texas in the West. Los Angeles was held to six hits in a 4-0 loss
at Minnesota on Sunday, finishing its road trip 2-4 and falling
eight games behind the Rangers.

“It’s not a good feeling,” losing pitcher Jered Weaver said. “I
tried to battle out there as much as I can, they got me for four
runs and we lost. That’s all there is to it.”

This is Kazmir’s second start against his former club after
giving up three runs and seven hits over five innings in a 7-2 home
loss May 11.

The southpaw surrendered four runs and eight hits – two homers –
over five innings Wednesday at Boston, leaving without a decision
in a 7-5 loss.

“I felt good, felt like I was attacking the zone, but I wasn’t
hitting my spots tonight,” Kazmir said.

Including the loss to Tampa Bay, Kazmir is 0-5 with a 7.30 ERA
in his last five home starts.