Rays' road struggles continue in loss

Rays' road struggles continue in loss

ARLINGTON -- James Shields is the Rays' No. 1 starter and for most of the season he's pitched exactly like an ace should, only his record won't reflect that fact heading into the offseason.

Friday night's 8-3 loss to the Rangers could be looked at as a microcosm for the right-hander's season.

"It's frustrating, it's been a frustrating year for me," Shields said. "You tell yourself to move on and that's what you have to do. That's what I have to do. Hopefully I can end my last game on a good note going into next year. Hopefully things will change up next year."

Shields has been the Rays' horse in the rotation for the past three seasons, yet he is guaranteed a losing record after taking his 12th loss. Finishing up on the wrong side of the ledger is a hard reality for Shields to take.

"It's very disappointing," Shields said. "I'm not too happy with that. I guess those things, everyone tells you they're going to happen. I'm kind of a perfectionist when it comes to that. But it's disappointing to know I'm not going to have a winning record this year."

Rays manager Joe Maddon pointed out that Shields' season has been out of whack from the beginning.

"There was a time that we really weren't scoring any runs for him and we were hanging some losses on him," Maddon said. "And we got a little bit better and then his pitching wasn't as sharp also. It's been a back-and-forth thing."

The Rangers got after Shields early when Marlon Byrd doubled with one out in the first to score Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus for a 2-0 lead. A solo home run by Chris Davis in the second pushed the lead to 3-0.

The Rays rallied in the third when Gabe Kapler led off the inning with his seventh home run of the season on a 1-2 pitch from Derek Holland. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist added RBI singles to tie the score at 3.

Despite taking the early damage, Shields hung in to pitch seven innings.

The scoreboard showed no errors for the Rays at the end of the game, but there were several costly mental mistakes. Two of those belonged to B.J. Upton on the basepaths.

Upton doubled to left with one out in the third. Jason Bartlett then drew a walk before Carl Crawford hit a ball between third base and shortstop that Andrus managed to grab. Upton had already begun to make a wide turn around third, as if the ball had gotten through. Andrus' throw to third beat the sliding Upton to the base for the second out of the inning.

"That's a tough one because he's kind of [in the middle], so he can score if it does get through," Maddon said. "Most shortstops don't get to that ball. This guy made a nice play and it probably surprised B.J. a bit. Because the ball was to the hole and the shortstop had been playing over, he makes a great play. Then he makes a perfect throw on the run on top of it; just a really good play."

Later, Upton singled to lead off the fifth, but was picked off at first by Holland.

"That was a big one," Maddon said.

Willy Aybar, who has struggled defensively all season, made the other mental error. With Borbon on third and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Josh Hamilton hit a ball to Aybar at first. Aybar moved to tag the runner when he seemed to suddenly realize that Borbon had started for home. Rather than waiting another instant to tag Hamilton, Aybar threw wildly to home and both runners were safe.

"I think he lost track of the guy's speed," Maddon said. "A normal runner you probably could have gotten away with that. With that kid you can't. We didn't have one of our better games mentally."

Any hopes the Rays might mount their second consecutive come-from-behind win were crushed in the bottom of the eighth when Ian Kinsler hit a three-run homer off Grant Balfour for his 30th home run of the season and an 8-3 Rangers lead.

The Rangers have not yet been eliminated, but they only have slim hopes slim hopes as they try to catch the Angels in the American League West.

"We're just trying to play and win as many games as we can and see where it's at," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They haven't put an 'X' by our name and we'll continue to play baseball. I certainly loved our effort tonight."

Friday night's road loss moved the Rays to 31-48 away from Tropicana Field this season. In addition, they are now winless in four games this season at Rangers Ballpark.

"We have not swung the bats well here, we have not played well here, period, we have not," Maddon said.

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