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Rays notes: Shields tasked with stopping mini-slide

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:25 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Tampa Bay Rays carry a two-game losing streak into tonight's series opener against New York at Yankee Stadium.

It's where a pitching ace must step up. RHP James Shields loves this spot.

Shields (5-0, 3.05 ERA) has built on last season's All-Star Game performance. Notably, he authored a 1-0 road win against the Boston Red Sox on April 16, snapping Tampa Bay's season-high, four-game losing streak.

In his last start, Shields defeated the Seattle Mariners, 5-4, on Wednesday. After allowing three runs in the first, when he threw 38 pitches, Shields buckled down and went six innings to claim the victory.

"Shields has been great,'' Rays RF Matt Joyce said. "He's pitching like the All-Star player he is.''

Shields is making his 22nd career start against the Yankees (5-11, 4.39). In 10 career starts at New York, he's 2-6 with a 5.05 ERA.

"We just want to win the series,'' Shields said. "That has been our goal all season long and that's what we've been doing. We're doing good right now, but obviously, we need to do better on the road.''

East-bound and down

The Rays begin an eight-game road trip tonight with all matchups against American League East opponents (Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays).

"There have been some surprises as to how things have started, but basically, it's five solid teams in our division,'' Rays DH Luke Scott said. "Baltimore is playing great. Toronto is a first-place team in any other division. New York and Boston, too. It's a challenge. There are no breaks. But that kind of competition makes everyone better.''

"I enjoy this stuff,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Normally, it brings out the best in us. All the teams are good. The Yankees are the Yankees. They aren't going away.''

Upton flourishing

The Rays are 12-4 since CF B.J. Upton (.333) was activated from the 15-day disabled list on April 20.

"I really like how his bat head is getting out in front,'' Maddon said. "The extension has been outstanding. He looks good right now, really good.''

After his solo shot on Sunday against Oakland, Upton needs eight homers before his birthday (Aug. 24) to become just the eighth player in MLB history to reach 100 homers and 200 stolen bases before age 28.

Noteworthy

The Yankees are 81-37 (.686) all-time at home against the Rays, their highest winning percentage against any AL team. … Dating to last year, the Rays have seven straight victories against the Yankees, including a season-opening, three-game sweep at Tropicana Field and the 8-7, 12-inning win on Sept. 28, 2011 in Game 162 that clinched Tampa Bay's AL wild-card playoff berth. … Yankees SS Derek Jeter (.390) leads MLB with 48 hits. Overall, Jeter has 3,136 career hits and needs six to pass Tony Gwynn for 17th place on the all-time list. … Yankees CF Curtis Granderson, who collected his 1,000th career hit on Sunday, is 3-for-46 (.065) all-time against Shields. Meanwhile, Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira is 6-for-43 (.140) against him.

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