Entering his Saturday afternoon outing, James Shields had an 0-6 record with a 6.86 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees. Worse, Shields had an 0-3 record with an 8.85 ERA in four career starts at Yankee Stadium. But he couldn't have been better Saturday, tossing eight scoreless innings to lead a 7-1 win over the Yankees in the first game of a day-night doubleheader in front of a crowd of 54,088 at Yankee Stadium.
"You look at the numbers coming into the game, their batting averages, [the Yankees] had some really good numbers [against Shields]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I really liked him attacking the zone with his fastball a lot, in good counts, and making them swing at his pitch. That's when he's at his best, and he gave us a chance to continue to build on. ... You look at the seven points, but it's always about our starting pitching, and it was again today."
By winning, the Rays claimed their third consecutive victory and expanded their lead in the American League East to three games over the second-place Red Sox, who lost to the Blue Jays, 8-1, in the first game of a doubleheader in Boston at Fenway Park.
Shields looked sharp throughout, allowing just five hits and no walks to earn his career-high 13th win against eight losses.
"It's a monkey off my back," said Shields of finally beating the Yankees and winning in his final start at Yankee Stadium. "I knew today that I had to do well, go deep in the game and help our bullpen out for that second game. I pitched pretty well today.
"It's good to end [at Yankee Stadium] on a good note. It's hard to come in here and play this team. And it was a total team effort today."
Evan Longoria returned to the lineup Saturday and didn't take long to establish his presence, as he led off the second by singling in his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list Sunday.
"Just like riding a bike," said Longoria, making light of his return. "That was good for me to get the first one out of the way. And you always want to win the first game of a doubleheader. Especially in their place -- it's not an easy place to win. We'll take them when we get them right now."
Longoria finished with two hits and two RBIs, as well as a dazzling play in the field that saw him dive to backhand a smash by Xavier Nady in the sixth and then throw a strike to first to end a potential Yankees scoring threat.
"Evan is unique," Maddon said. "His play today, considering the injury he is returning from, was great. That play down the line to rob Nady was a good sign. Few guys can do that and also be accurate with the throw."
Mike Mussina, who was 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season, started for the Yankees. Given the past results, Maddon decided to try something different.
Save for Carlos Pena, Mussina looked at an all right-handed lineup that included seldom-used rookie Justin Ruggiano and switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Fernando Perez, who were instructed to hit right-handed against the right-handed veteran Mussina.
"I know that righties do better off me than lefties," Mussina said. "Even their one switch-hitter hit right-handed against me instead of left-handed. But there are teams out there with a lot of right-handed hitters, and I have to approach them the same way."
Ruggiano entered the game hitless in his previous 15 at-bats, but he took advantage of Saturday's assignment with three hits in four at-bats, including a two-run double to right field in the second inning that put the Rays up 2-0.
"Really good," said Ruggiano when asked how good it felt to see his first hit drop in. "I don't know what I was 0-for before that, but it felt good getting that monkey off my back. It allowed me to relax a little bit. When you don't play every day, you have nothing but time in the cage to think about mechanics. When you start thinking about mechanics, you start doing too much at the plate. When it's really just be comfortable, see the ball, hit the ball."
Zobrist had an RBI double in three trips to the plate, and Perez had two hits in five at-bats.
The Rays were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position Saturday after beginning their current road trip 4-for-56 over six games.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.