The Tampa Bay Rays (27-23) send James Shields to the mound today to keep the Cleveland Indians (30-18) off the board for another 24 hours. Shields (5-2, 2.00 ERA, 2.85 FIP) has a tough act to follow after David Price went 7 innings, striking out 12 hitters yesterday. And Shields certainly has the ability to do that. The Rays second starter has pitched like an ace this season, going the full 9 innings in his last outing while striking out 13 batters.
At the same time, though, Shields has had a share of good luck, sporting a lower batting average on balls in play (.249 in 2011) than last year -- when he seemed to be rather unlucky. On the other hand, the Indians starter has been just about as unlucky as Shields has been lucky. Carlos Carrasco (3-2, 5.16 ERA, 3.66 FIP) has a rather unpleasant earned run average (ERA), but has not been as bad as the scoreboards would indicate. Carrasco, who has not entered the 7th inning since April 14th, has an impressive fielding independent pitching (FIP) rating of 3.66, meaning he has pitched well enough for a sub-4.00 ERA.
The Rays now sit half a game behind the New York Yankees, who lost last 3-4 to Seattle, and 1.5 games behind the ultra-hot Boston Red Sox. For the Rays to close that gap, they will need slugging third baseman Evan Longoria to find his stroke again. Longo has only 4 hits, 4 walks, and no homers since rejoining the club on May 18th.
Game Time: 4:10 p.m. ET (Tickets)
Television: Sun Sports HD, MLBN
Radio: WDAE 620, WGES 680