Rays beat Angels 4-3, tie for 1st place in AL East

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Bolstered
by an early lead, James Shields pitched the Tampa Bay Rays back into a
first-place tie with the Yankees in the AL East.

B.J. Upton
homered on the first pitch of the game from former Tampa Bay teammate
Scott Kazmir and doubled home another run in a 4-3 win over the Los
Angeles Angels on Monday night.

The Rays’ win in the series
opener — their fifth one-run game in a row — and New York’s 3-2 loss
at Toronto left the teams with identical 77-48 records, tied for best
in the majors.

“How ’bout it?” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
“That’s pretty interesting. It’s much more fun to excruciatingly look
at the scoreboard every night.”

They also improved on their
38-24 road record, the best in baseball. The Rays have won three
straight at Angel Stadium for the first time in franchise history.

Shields
(12-11) allowed eight hits and three runs — two earned — in six-plus
innings, struck out 10 and walked one in his 144th career start, tying
Kazmir for most in club history.

“He’s been a rock for us the last several years,” Maddon said. “He’s going to really get on a nice run.”

The
right-hander from the Los Angeles suburb of Newhall earned his 55th
career victory, tying Kazmir’s mark, and won in Anaheim for the first
time after losing his two previous appearances.

“It’s good to
get that off my back. Hopefully, I can get a lot more wins,” Shields
said. “I was commanding my fastball really well. I got in a nice little
rhythm.”

Rafael Soriano struck out the side on nine pitches in the ninth to earn his major league-leading 38th save in 40 chances.

Kazmir
(8-11) gave up five hits and four runs in 5 1-3 innings, struck out
four and walked four to fall to 1-6 in his last eight starts. He’s
pitched into the seventh just once in his last nine starts for the
Angels, who are 2-6 in their last eight games.

“If I just got
past that first inning without any damage and had been a little bit
more economical it would have been a whole different outcome,” Kazmir
said. “I settled in nice in the third, fourth and fifth innings. That
was me out there. But I put myself in a hole early and it’s
frustrating. It puts pressure on everyone when you start the game down
three runs.”

Upton ended an 0-for-11 skid with his 12th homer
and second leadoff home run of the season. Ben Zobrist extended the
Rays’ lead to 3-0 with a two-run single later in the first.

Upton doubled into the left-field corner in the second, putting the Rays up 4-0.

“I
know it sounds like a broken record, but Scott’s just having trouble
moving forward with some things and he’s paying a price for it,” Angels
manager Mike Scioscia said.

His next time up, Upton flied out to
the warning track in left-center in the fourth, then was robbed of a
home run by center fielder Peter Bourjos in the sixth. Bourjos also
took away a home run from former Angel Sean Rodriguez leading off the
second, but the ball bounced off his glove and ended up as a double.

“Those
are the first two in the big leagues that I’ve pulled back,” he said.
“The ball kind of hung up for me a little bit, so I was able to get
back on the ball. I was pretty upset about the first one. It was
bugging me in the dugout, but then to get the second one felt pretty
good.”

Bourjos’ play impressed teammate Torii Hunter, who moved from center to right to accommodate the rookie.

“He
made the adjustment from the first one. He concentrated a little more
and knew the wall was going to be there, and he put the glove out there
and took the hit,” Hunter said. “It just reminded me of myself. I know
the feeling of taking a home run away from other players. That used to
be fun.”

The Angels trailed 4-2 in the third on Hideki Matsui’s
two-run double with two outs. They made it 4-3 in the seventh on Howie
Kendrick’s sacrifice fly.

NOTES: Juan
Rivera made his first career start at first base for the Angels,
becoming the eighth player to start there since Kendry Morales’
season-ending broken leg on May 29. … After the game, the Rays
optioned RHP Mike Ekstrom to Triple-A Durham and reinstated RHP Wade
Davis from the DL to start on Tuesday. … Rays 3B Evan Longoria was
hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts after being named AL player
of the week when he hit .393 last week. … The Rays concluded a
three-day stretch against left-handed starters. They are 30-13, tops in
the majors, when an opponent starts a lefty. … The Angels have lost
three of four against the Rays at home, where Los Angeles is 14-4
against them since 2006.

Updated August 23, 2010