Twins-Rays Preview

After a rough beginning to the season, it appears James Shields

has turned things around.

The Tampa Bay starter tries for his third straight win Saturday

night when the Rays continue their home series with the Minnesota

Twins.

Coming off a 2011 in which he set career bests with 16 wins and

a 2.82 ERA, Shields (2-0, 3.38 ERA) opened 2012 by allowing six

runs in five innings of a 7-6 loss to the New York Yankees on April

6.

Since then, he gave up two runs in eight innings of a 4-2

victory at Detroit on April 11 and yielded just four singles in 8

1-3 innings of Monday’s 1-0 win at Boston.

“Shields didn’t give us much to hit,” Red Sox second baseman

Dustin Pedroia told the Rays’ official website. “He was on the

corners, throwing all his pitches for strikes.”

Shields is 3-2 with a 4.69 ERA in nine starts against the Twins,

including 2-0 with a 3.90 ERA in four at Tropicana Field.

He hopes to help the Rays (7-7) rebound after they fell 5-4 to

Minnesota in Friday’s series opener.

“We just have to move on,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, whose

team blew a two-run lead by giving up three in the seventh.

Josh Willingham extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a

three-run double and Joe Mauer drove in two runs for the Twins

(5-9), who are looking to win a series at Tampa Bay for the first

time since 2006.

Willingham is batting .333 with five homers and 12 RBIs on the

season.

“He’s fun to watch,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s been on

the baseball, that’s for sure.”

Mauer, meanwhile, is hitting .443 with 19 RBIs in 18 career

games at Tropicana Field. He’s batted .381 (8 for 21) versus

Shields.

Teammate Justin Morneau, 8 for 23 (.348) with three doubles and

a home run off Shields, is likely to be in the lineup after he sat

Friday with a sore foot suffered in Thursday’s 7-6 loss at New

York.

“Everything is fine,” Gardenhire said. “It’s pretty sore, (but)

I expect him to be back out there (Saturday).”

Minnesota right-hander Carl Pavano (1-1, 5.23) takes the mound

looking to build on Monday’s 7-3 victory at Yankee Stadium, where

he allowed three runs and struck out six in seven innings.

“Carl has always been a good pitcher,” New York captain Derek

Jeter said of the former Yankee. “When he’s healthy, he pitches

well. He mixes it up. He can throw any pitch at any time to

anybody. He doesn’t throw too many balls over the plate.”

Pavano, 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 13 starts versus Tampa Bay, gave

up four hits and fanned seven in eight innings of a 4-3, 10-inning

loss to the Rays on April 14, 2011.

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria is 2 for 13 against

Pavano, but he’s homered in each of the Rays’ last two games while

driving home six runs .

Teammate B.J. Upton, 7 for 16 (.438) with two doubles and a

homer off Pavano, went 0 for 3 on Friday in his 2012 debut after

beginning the season on the disabled list with a back strain.