MIAMI (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays have dominated the Miami Marlins in their recent interleague matchups, including a pair of remarkable outings from James Shields.
The right-hander looks to help Tampa Bay complete a three-game sweep Sunday for its seventh consecutive victory over host Miami, which has dropped the first five of a nine-game homestand.
The Rays have outscored the Marlins 36-11 while winning the last six meetings, including a 13-4 rout on Saturday. Ben Zobrist homered twice and Elliot Johnson went 4 for 5 with three RBIs.
Zobrist is 6 for 13 over his last three games, though he’s still hitting only .218 on the season.
“It’s been a long couple of months for me trying to get things going and hopefully this is a sign of good things to come,” Zobrist said.
AL East-leading Tampa Bay (34-25) has won three straight after dropping six of its previous eight.
“During the course of a baseball season you’re going to do it right sometimes and sometimes you’re going to mess it up,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Tonight we didn’t mess it up. We got it right.”
The Rays’ run against Miami began with Shields tossing a three-hitter with a career-high 13 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory May 22 of last season. He followed that up by allowing one unearned run while fanning 10 in a four-hit, 2-1 win June 19.
Shields (6-4, 4.27 ERA), though, hasn’t been nearly as good lately.
His ERA has jumped from 3.63 after losing consecutive starts. He gave up six runs – five earned – in six innings of a 7-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on May 29, then allowed seven runs – five earned – in five innings of Tuesday’s 7-0 defeat at Yankee Stadium.
Shields’ two strikeouts in the last outing were his fewest in his last 24 starts including the postseason, and he’ll look to bounce back against a Marlins offense that has sputtered of late.
Miami (31-28) has dropped five in a row – one shy of its season high – after winning seven of nine, scoring a combined eight runs during the skid. Justin Ruggiano went 2 for 3 with a three-run homer Saturday.
“We played terrible,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Carlos Zambrano left Saturday’s start in the third inning with lower back stiffness after giving up seven runs, forcing Guillen to use four relievers to finish the game. He hopes Anibal Sanchez can give the bullpen a bit of a rest with a solid outing.
Sanchez (3-4, 3.19), though, allowed season highs of seven runs and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings of an 11-0 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. He dropped to 1-4 with a 4.64 ERA in his last five outings.
“The main thing is, I’m healthy,” Sanchez told the team’s official website. “That’s baseball. The rest of the story, everybody knows. I missed a lot of pitches. I think I was behind for a lot of the counts. But I’m fine.”
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts against the Rays.
Giancarlo Stanton went 2 for 4 with a double Saturday, ending an 0 for 14 slump versus Tampa Bay.
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