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The Tampa Bay Rays Vs. The Cleveland Indians: James Shields Goes For The Series Win

The Tampa Bays Rays (23-15) look to finish their road trip with a win today, sending "Big Game" James Shields (3-1, 2.01 ERA, 3.06 FIP) out to face former Boston Red Sox pitcher, Justin Masterson (5-0, 2.11 ERA, 2.86 FIP). The Cleveland Indians (23-12) will look to start a new home winning streak behind their number three starter, who has began the season at an incredible pace.

Advanced statistics (such as BABIP and LOB%) suggest both Shields and Masterson have been recipients of good fortune in the early going this season. Despite that, they are still two elite pitchers who could easily take control of the game if they have control of their arsenals.

Unfortunately for the Rays, center fielder B.J. Upton will be out of action today as he serves the second and final game of his suspension for arguing with home plate umpire Chad Fairchild (on a late-game call that Fairchild clearly missed). The Rays' have enough flexibility to employ a variety of different options, today shifting Sam Fuld from left to center while putting Matt Joyce in left field.

Today's lineup per TBO Rays:

Sam Fuld CF
Ben Zobrist RF
Johnny Damon DH
Evan Longoria 3B
Matt Joyce LF
Casey Kotchman 1B
Elliot Johnson 2B
Reid Brignac SS
Kelly Shoppach C

Players to watch:

  • Elliot Johnson gets the start at second base as Ben Zobrist shifts to right. Johnson hit very well in Triple-A during the 2010 season, but has thus far hit poorly with the Rays. His limited playing time negatively effects his chances at improving, but do not be surprised if the switch-hitter gets hot any day now.
  • Kelly Shoppach gets the start today after John Jaso played late last night. Shoppach does not usually play against right-handed pitchers, but has caught all of Shields's games this year. He will likely struggle against the elite Justin Masterson.
  • The Rays continue to roll with the ever-lucky Casey Kotchman. Expect his bat to also cool off in the coming days, but hopefully not too much! If he regresses to his career norms, he may start to lose playing time to Dan Johnson.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.