Rays-Blue Jays Preview

Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon led the Tampa Bay Rays to victory

in the middle game of their series against the Toronto Blue


The two could be poised for another big game in the finale.

Zobrist and Damon, who have regularly frustrated Blue Jays

scheduled starter Ricky Romero, look to lead the Rays back to .500

with a 10th victory in 14 games Sunday at Rogers Centre.

Zobrist broke a 2-all tie with a three-run homer in the sixth

inning for Tampa Bay (10-11) in Saturday’s 6-4 win over Toronto

(9-11). Damon drove in the other three runs and also homered for

the Rays, who have won nine of 12.

While Damon is in the midst of an impressive surge, batting .351

with 15 RBIs in his last nine games, Zobrist has been struggling

mightily. He entered Saturday’s game hitting .183 with seven


Facing Romero (1-2, 3.12 ERA) could help him get on track, as

he’s 6 for 12 with a pair of doubles lifetime against him.

Damon has also fared quite well versus Romero, going 4 for 7

(.571) with a homer, two doubles and six walks in his career.

Romero, who went 1-1 with a 5.89 ERA in three starts against the

Rays last season, is hoping to put a disappointing outing behind


After posting a 1.66 ERA in his first three starts while walking

just four over 21 2-3 innings, Romero allowed season highs of five

runs, eight hits and five walks in a season-low 4 1-3 innings in

Monday’s 9-1 loss to Boston.

Tampa Bay counters with James Shields (1-1, 3.07), who tossed a

four-hitter in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Chicago. The right-hander

struck out a season-high nine and walked one in his first complete

game since June 10, 2008, against the Los Angeles Angels.

“My delivery is really good right now,” Shields told the Rays’

official website. “I’m going to try to stay consistent. If I can

stay consistent with my delivery and mechanics, there’s less room

for error.”

Shields has yielded two or fewer runs in three of his four

starts, with the only exception his lone outing away from Tropicana

Field. He gave up five runs in six innings in Chicago on April 8,

and has regularly struggled on the road.

Shields has a 5.04 career road ERA, compared to 3.53 in St.


It has been a similar story for Shields against the Blue Jays.

The six-year veteran is 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA in nine career home

starts against them but 1-3 with a 5.87 ERA in six games in

Toronto. He had a 12.00 ERA in two outings at Rogers Centre last


Jose Bautista is batting .429 lifetime against Shields with two

home runs in 14 at-bats, and had his first two-homer game of the

season Saturday.

Bautista, who homered in Friday’s 6-4, 11-inning series-opening

win, also walked and singled Saturday, and has reached base in 10

consecutive plate appearances. He is batting .542 with six homers –

all solo shots – with a double in seven home games this season.

“He’s very reminiscent of Barry Bonds in 2002,” Rays manager

Joe Maddon said. “He looks like that where every time he swings the

bat, it looks like it’s going to go over the wall. Just tremendous

plate discipline, very aggressive swing. It’s an understatement to

say that he’s locked in right now.”