Friday, May 18th (All times Eastern)
Atlanta Braves (24-15) at Tampa Bay Rays (24-15), 7:10 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Atlanta - Tommy Hanson (4-3, 3.43) Tampa Bay - James Shields (6-1, 3.52)
(Sports Network) - James Shields will try to become the majors' first seven- game winner when he takes the mound tonight for the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of a three-game interleague series versus the Atlanta Braves.
Shields and teammate David Price are two of five pitchers in the big leagues with six wins, while Shields is 6-1 with a 3.52 earned run average in eight starts this season. After suffering his first blemish of the season on May 8 in a 5-3 loss at Yankee Stadium, Shields bounced back into the win column in Sunday's 9-8 victory at Baltimore despite allowing six runs -- four earned -- and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
The right-hander has lasted at least six innings in seven consecutive outings and will put his unbeaten home mark on the line. Shields is 2-0 in three trips to the Tropicana Field mound and lost the only appearance of his career against the Braves in a 3-1 loss on June 17, 2010 at Turner Field. He allowed all three runs and five hits through six innings.
Shields led the majors with three complete games and 42 strikeouts in interleague play a season ago. He also tied the major league lead with three wins and 34 innings pitched.
Tampa Bay failed in its attempt for a two-game sweep of the AL East-rival Boston Red Sox with Thursday's 5-3 loss. Rays starter Matt Moore was saddled with the loss and gave up three runs and five hits in six innings with eight strikeouts and one walk.
"I thought he finished really strong. That's a good game to build off of," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Moore. "He definitely pitched well enough to win."
B.J. Upton and Jeff Keppinger both had two hits and an RBI, while Rich Thompson drove in the other run for the Rays. Tampa Bay had won four in a row and will continue an eight-game homestand Friday. It will also host Toronto for three games and sits one game behind Baltimore for the AL East lead.
Atlanta enters tonight's tilt atop the National League East standings, just one-half game ahead of Washington, and will kick off a seven-game road trip against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati.
The Braves split a two-game set with the division-rival Miami Marlins and recorded a 7-0 win on Thursday behind Brandon Beachy's first career shutout. Beachy held the Marlins to five hits, struck out six and did not walk a batter to improve to 5-1 on the season. His five wins leads the team.
"I always expect to do well when I go out there but I guess I don't ever think about where I compare to everyone else," said Beachy. "I always worked off of my own internal motivation and I got a goal of what I want to accomplish and it really doesn't factor in what everyone else is doing."
Freddie Freeman homered, while Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and Chipper Jones each had two hits and an RBI for the Braves, who have won nine of 13 games. Atlanta enters Friday's game on a three-game road winning streak.
Tommy Hanson will take the mound for the Braves tonight and is second on the club with four wins. Hanson was 0-1 in two starts before getting back into the swing of things in a 7-4 victory at St. Louis on Sunday, as he struck out nine and yielded one run in five innings of work.
Hanson, a right-hander, improved to 4-3 with a 3.43 ERA in eight starts. He defeated the Rays the only time he faced them in a 6-2 win on June 16, 2010. Hanson blanked Tampa Bay through seven innings of three-hit ball, struck out six and walked one.
Atlanta and Tampa Bay are meeting for the first time since the Braves took two of three meetings back in 2010. The Rays are only 6-15 all-time against the Braves and have won only one of their seven series against them back in 2001. Tampa Bay is 118-132 all-time in interleague action and Atlanta sports an admirable 129-112 mark against the American League -- the second-best mark among all National League teams (Miami, .536).
The Rays are 62-46 under Maddon in interleague play. Atlanta was 10-5 in games against the AL Last season.
05/18 10:35:19 ET