'Hard Luck' Shields to open homestand

'Hard Luck' Shields to open homestand

ANAHEIM -- The Rays will send "Hard Luck" James Shields to the mound Friday night when they begin a nine-game homestand at Tropicana Field.

Shields has received the least run support of any pitcher on the staff this season, which explains his losing record despite having a 3.79 ERA. The 3.68 runs per nine innings received by Shields ranks as the second-lowest average in the American League, slightly more than former Rays hurler Edwin Jackson, who has been receiving 3.56 runs from his Tigers teammates.

Tampa Bay has scored 97 runs in Shields' 24 starts and 21 of those runs came in two games -- his first win of the season on April 12 in Baltimore and in his most recent start in Seattle. The Rays have scored three runs or fewer in 14 of his starts and he has been on the receiving end of two of the four games in which they have been shut out.

"It's just been a weird season for me," Shields said. "I think every team has that guy. ... You can't really think about what's happened in the past. You've gotta just kind of move on."

If Shields' most recent start is a precursor of things to come, the right-hander's luck could be changing. On Saturday in Seattle, Shields received 10 runs of support and got the win despite a season-high 112 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings.

"I'm feeling pretty happy about my last start," Shields said. "These guys scored 10 runs for me. ... And I think the position players kind of got the monkey off their backs a little bit. They were all happy after the last game. They were happy to score some runs for me. These guys try so hard every time out."

Of course, the Rays will be facing Roy Halladay on Friday night. Shields offered an ironic smile after being reminded he would be facing the Blue Jays' ace.

"I wouldn't have minded [Halladay getting traded from the Blue Jays]," Shields said. "This guy is the best pitcher in baseball as far as I'm concerned. But he's in our league. That's what makes our league the toughest league in baseball."

Halladay might be the best pitcher in baseball, but Tampa Bay has enjoyed success against him this season. The Rays are 2-0 against the righty and have won all three of the games in which he has started against them.

Pitching matchup
TB: RHP James Shields (7-8, 3.79 ERA)
Shields was not as sharp as he could have been on Saturday against Seattle, but it was still a breakout game for him. He broke an eight-game winless streak, dating back to June 20. Shields worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and eight hits. Manager Joe Maddon said, "Shields battled. He wasn't as good as he can be. [But] he got us deeper into the game." Shields now opens the homestand with Toronto, a team he faced in back-to-back starts July 1 and July 7. He went at least seven innings in both. He lost, 5-0, on July 1, allowing seven hits and four earned runs. Then, on July 7, he gave up just one run on seven hits in a seven-inning no-decision but a 3-1 win for the Rays. He is 4-3 in his career against the Blue Jays.

TOR: RHP Roy Halladay (12-5, 2.73 ERA)
Halladay picked up a win over the Orioles on Sunday, marking just his second victory over nine starts. The main culprit over that rough stretch was a lack of run support, though Toronto's offense provided seven runs in Doc's latest effort. Against Baltimore, Halladay logged nine innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits with four strikeouts and one walk. He issued a walk in the second inning to snap a run of 77 consecutive batters faced with no free passes and 51 hitters in a row without slipping to a three-ball count. In his career against the Rays, Halladay has gone 11-9 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 games.

Chad Bradford (lower back tightness) pitched a perfect inning of relief for Class A Charlotte on Tuesday night. "He felt good and struck out two," Maddon said. "He's getting much closer. There's an outside chance [he'll be back with the Rays by the weekend]. We'll see after [his outing on Wednesday]. The two-days-in-a-row thing is always big for finding out where a guy is at." ... B.J. Upton did not start Wednesday afternoon's game. Maddon would like to see Upton return to being more reactive in his style of play as opposed to thinking too much. ... The Rays recently designated for assignment two pitchers, John Meloan and R.J. Swindle, only to see the pair claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh and Cleveland, respectively. ... The Rays have acquired an ownership interest in the Florida Tuskers, a franchise in the newly created United Football League. The league has four teams that will play a six-game schedule this fall; the Tuskers will play two home games at Orlando's Citrus Bowl, and their Oct. 30 matchup with the Las Vegas Locomotives is scheduled for Tropicana Field.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
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Up next
• Saturday: Rays (Scott Kazmir, 6-7, 6.50) vs. Blue Jays (Brian Tallet, 5-6, 4.85), 7:08 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Rays (Matt Garza, 7-8, 3.80) vs. Blue Jays (Marc Rzepczynski, 1-3, 4.38), 1:38 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.