James Shields has the undesirable task of following David Price in Tampa Bay's rotation, but lately Shields has been doing a pretty good impression of the Rays' ace.
Shields looks to win a fourth straight decision Wednesday when the Rays complete their series against the visiting Kansas City Royals.Wednesday's starters have a tough act to follow after the performances by Price and Luke Hochevar in the Royals' 1-0, 10-inning victory Tuesday.The two starters each went eight scoreless innings, combining for 18 strikeouts while allowing four hits.Eric Hosmer drove in the lone run with a two-out single that scored Jeff Francoeur, who had advanced to second on an error by Ben Zobrist."You don't see that very often anymore, not that dominant on both sides," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You knew there wasn't going to be much offense going into it. You were hoping you could scratch out one run, maybe two, and somebody's going to make a mistake."Failing to help Price earn his 17th win, the Rays (68-55) finished with two hits. The loss snapped Tampa Bay's five-game winning streak, during which it averaged 8.4 runs and hit .318."Anytime you play a game like that and you lose 1-0, of course it's no fun," manager Joe Maddon said. "But overall we played a really good game. We pitched great once again. You can't be an oil painting every night, man."Tampa Bay stayed four games back of New York in the AL East and is a game up on Baltimore for the AL's top wild-card spot.While the Rays have been on a roll, the Royals have quietly won 14 of 21. Hosmer is hitting .409 over the last eight games, raising his season average up to .237 -- his highest since July 2.Kansas City (55-67), which also was limited to one run in the series opener, may not have much better luck getting the offense going against Shields (11-7, 4.03 ERA).Shields is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last four starts. He gave up three runs on two homers over six innings of a 12-3 win over Los Angeles on Friday.The right-hander, who was the subject of trade rumors before the deadline, was 1/3 with a 6.15 ERA in a seven-start stretch before the deadline."The only difference is the numbers," Shields said. "I mean, I've been pitching the same way and I've taken the same approach in every single game. So I don't think it's more relaxing now -- because we're fighting for the wild card and fighting for the AL East, so we have to win every game."Shields is 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA in five home starts against the Royals.Kansas City will counter with Luis Mendoza (7-8, 4.26), who is looking to win his third straight start.Mendoza is 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in four starts in August. He allowed two runs and four hits while striking out six in seven innings of a 4-2 win over Chicago on Friday."What he's doing is attacking the strike zone with good natural movement on his fastball, which is tough to center," Yost said. "He's been very effective with his curveball and his changeup. You add all that up, he gets quick outs, goes deep into the games."Mendoza will face the Rays for the first time.