After Price became the majors' third 15-game winner, Shields goes for a third consecutive winning start Sunday when the visiting Rays try to match a season high with a sixth straight victory and complete a sweep of the Minnesota Twins .
Price allowed two runs in seven innings in Tampa Bay's 4-2 victory at Minnesota on Saturday. B.J Upton homered twice and Matt Joyce added a solo shot for the Rays (61-52), who have won 12 of 17.
In postseason contention once again, Tampa Bay is 78-43 in August since 2008.
"When you win five in a row, then you show up and you feel like you're going to win, that's obviously a good thing and that does turn into winning more often," manager Joe Maddon said.
Winners of four in a row against the Twins, the Rays have a chance to sweep their second three-game set in as many years at Target Field.
It would seem Tampa Bay has a very good chance to accomplish that feat by handing the ball to Shields (10-7, 4.08 ERA), who has allowed one run, five hits and struck out 17 in 17 innings to win his last two starts after going 0-2 with a 6.31 ERA in the previous four. Shields gave up a homer and one other hit in eight innings of a 4-1 victory over Toronto on Tuesday secure his sixth straight 10-win season."I think I've turned the corner," he said. "Hopefully I get on a little roll here."
Shields improved to 4-2 with a 4.24 ERA in 10 starts versus Minnesota on April 21 when he yielded one run in eight innings of a 4-1 victory.
Upton, who has five RBIs in the first two games of the set, is batting .351 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 10 games at Target Field.
Joyce has homered in each of the last two contests and also has five RBIs in the series. He's 6 for 15 with a double, three home runs and six RBIs in four games versus Minnesota this season.
Tampa Bay has scored a combined 11 runs in the first two innings of the first two games in this series."I think we know going in these guys are swinging early in the first inning," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's where we have to be better (Sunday). We've got to make better pitches early."
Tampa Bay, batting .310 while totaling 30 runs and 53 hits during its five-game winning streak, gets its first look at Minnesota left-hander Scott Diamond (10-5, 2.91) in the finale.
The team leader in wins, who also has one of the lowest ERAs in the majors, Diamond allowed three runs in seven innings of a 14-3 victory at Cleveland on Monday.
Justin Morneau had two of the seven hits Saturday for the Twins (49-64), who have lost three straight after winning nine of 12.
Morneau and teammate Joe Mauer are batting a combined .372 (19 for 51) against Shields.
Minnesota will look to avoid a fifth consecutive loss at Target Field, where it is 23-34.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|August 05, 2012||Ben Zobrist||Day-to-Day||Left game - upper back spasms|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Alex Cobb||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee contusion|
|July 02, 2012||Hideki Matsui||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|June 30, 2012||Jeremy Hellickson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right shin|
|June 29, 2012||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|July 25, 2012||Anthony Swarzak||15-Day DL||Mild right rotator cuff strain|
|July 21, 2012||Trevor Plouffe||15-Day DL||Bruised right thumb|
|July 17, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right rotator cuff irritation|
|June 24, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 24, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 17, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right quadricep|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Evan Longoria is back on the field, and the Tampa Bay Rays are back in the AL East race.
Jeff Keppinger hit tiebreaking grounder after the All-Star third baseman was intentionally walked in a four-run, 10th inning, and the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 7-3 Sunday to improve to 6-0 since Longoria returned from a three-month layoff.
"I believe in all these guys," manager Joe Maddon said. "I like the energy with which we're playing."
Tampa Bay swept consecutive three-game series against Toronto and the Twins, the first time the Rays swept opponents back-to-back since April 12-19, 2010, at Baltimore and Boston. The Rays sent Minnesota to its fifth straight loss, matched their longest winning streak this season and are five games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees , the closest Tampa Bay has been to first place since the morning of June 26.
Longoria missed 85 games because of a partially torn left hamstring and hasn't found his power swing yet, hitting .261 (6 for 23) with a double and four RBIs in his return - all as a designated hitter.
Luke Scott (right oblique) is likely coming back from the disabled list this week, and pitcher Jeff Niemann is on an injury rehabilitation assignment for the reviving Rays.
Tampa Bay, which improved to 4-4 in extra innings this season, broke a 3-all tie after Desmond Jennings singled off Alex Burnett (4-4) leading off the 10th and stole second. B.J. Upton walked and Ben Zobrist sacrificed Jennings to third. After the walk to Longoria loaded the bases, Jeff Keppinger bounced to shortstop Brian Dozier , who appeared to have time to throw home for a forceout or to second in an attempt for a double play. Instead, he threw to first as Tampa Bay took the lead.
"Everybody has an opinion on where he should have thrown the ball, but I'm going to back my player here," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He did what he thought was right."
Dozier wanted to play it safe.
"A smart infielder makes sure he gets one out right there," he said. "Every shortstop in the league would've done the same thing."
Tampa Bay, which overcame three errors, was pleased at the break.
"It's good to have one every once in a while," Jennings said. "I thought he was going to try to turn a double play."
Tyler Robertson relieved and hit Carlos Pena with a pitch, reloading the bases. Ryan Roberts followed with a two-run single off
Casey Fien , his third hit of the game, and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce singled in a run.
Kyle Farnsworth (1-3) worked around a one-out single in the ninth for first win since Aug. 21 against Seattle, and Fernando Rodney retired his only batter for his league-leading 36th save in 37 attempts.
Tampa Bay starter James Shields tied his season low with just two strikeouts, allowing three runs - two earned - and five hits in seven innings. He twice stranded runners who reached third with one out.
"Today was a grind," he said. "Our defense wasn't there, but we've had good defense since the (All-Star) break and are playing well."
Minnesota starter Scott Diamond allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings, matching his season highs with two walks and two home runs allowed.
Jennings hit his third career leadoff homer for Tampa Bay and Keppinger homered in the second for a 2-0 lead. Keppinger's error allowed Josh Willingham to reach in the bottom half, and Justin Morneau 's two-run homer tied the score.
Denard Span doubled and scored in the third, then left in the seventh with right shoulder pain, an inning after his diving attempt on a ball by Keppinger that wound up as a double. X-rays showed no damage and the Twins said he is day to day.
Consecutive doubles by Roberts and Sean Rodriguez tied the score in the fifth.
NOTES: Longoria could receive his first day off since his return on Monday at Seattle. Maddon said he will wait to decide on Longoria's availability. ... Roberts had his first three-hit game since June 8 while with Arizona. ... Tampa Bay will continue its 10-game trip Monday with RHP Alex Cobb (6-8, 4.32 ERA) opposing RHP Blake Beavan (7-6, 5.12 ERA). ... RHP Samuel Deduno (3-0, 3.27 ERA) will start Monday for the Twins as they open a three-game series against visiting Detroit, which counters with RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-9, 4.37 ERA). ... 3B Trevor Plouffe , on the DL (right thumb) since July 21, is expected to return from his rehab assignment and rejoin Minnesota on Monday. ... Twins RHP Matt Capps , out since July 17 with rotator cuff inflammation, will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder Monday. Capps hopes to resume throwing Wednesday and pitch again for the Twins in early September.