James Shields aims to follow up his best outing of the season on Saturday, as the Tampa Bay Rays try to stay in the postseason hunt in the middle test of a three-game series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Shields won for the sixth time in seven decisions on Sunday with a marvelous two-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers. He also struck out eight without walking a batter and improved to 14-8, while lowering his ERA to 3.71.
"Right about after the seventh, I was pretty locked in on finishing," Shields said. "I wanted to get early outs there in the eighth inning. I wanted to finish the game today. These guys did a great job of taking the lead, and first and foremost, you have to give it to the defense today."
Shields beat the Yankees two starts ago, but is just 7-13 lifetime against them with a 4.52 ERA in 25 starts.
New York, meanwhile, will welcome righty Ivan Nova back to the rotation. Nova has been sidelined since Aug. 21 with inflammation in his right rotator cuff and is 11-7 with a 4.92 ERA.
Nova lost to the Rays the last time he faced them, but owns a 4-1 ledger against them with a 3.05 ERA in seven starts.
Tampa helped itself out in Friday's opener, as David Price went seven innings, B.J. Upton hit a solo homer, and the Rays rolled to a 6-4 win.
Price (18-5) allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in his first start since Sept. 2, while Fernando Rodney recorded the final five outs to notch his 43rd save of the season.
Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist and Elliot Johnson had an RBI apiece for the Rays, who managed just six total runs in their previous series -- a three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.
With Friday's win, Tampa Bay pulled within three games of New York and Baltimore for the final AL wild card spot.
"We played better offensively, that's what it came down to," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "We've been pitching well enough to win games. We finally got the hits."
CC Sabathia (13-6) gave up four runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings and dropped his third straight decision. His last win came on Aug. 24 at Cleveland.
"I'm just not making pitches," Sabathia said. "Tonight I had two strikes a couple of times and I couldn't make the pitch to get out of the inning."
Alex Rodriguez belted a two-run, eighth-inning homer for the Yankees and Curtis Granderson had a leadoff shot in the fifth. Derek Jeter went 2-for-5 and passed Willie Mays for sole possession of 10th place on the all-time hits list.
New York and Baltimore, which fell to the Oakland Athletics on Friday, remain tied for the AL East lead.
Tampa has won 10 of its 16 meetings with the Yankees this season, but is just 3-4 in the Bronx.