Lester, Shields square off at the Trop

Runs could be scarce this afternoon at Tropicana Field, game series.

Shields has won three straight starts and is 6-2 in his last eight decisions with three complete games and two shutouts. Shields, who leads the majors with 11 complete-game performances, held the Rangers to a run and four hits in Monday's 5-1 victory at the Trop.

The right-hander has yielded only two runs in his last three starts and improved to 14-10 in 29 starts to go along with a 2.77 earned run average. Shields is also 7-5 with a 2.47 ERA in 15 starts in St. Petersburg and lost to Boston on Aug. 16 in a 3-1 decision at Fenway Park. He allowed three runs in eight innings that day and is 1-3 in three starts in this series this season.

In 19 career starts against the Red Sox, Shields sports a 6-11 mark to go along with a 4.84 ERA.

Jon Lester has enjoyed success in this series, going 10-4 with a 3.65 earned run average in 18 career starts. He threw seven innings of one-run ball and struck out eight batters in the aforementioned win over the Rays last month. He has won four of his last five starts and received more than enough run support in a 14-0 blasting at Toronto on Tuesday.

Lester held the Blue Jays to three hits in seven scoreless innings and fanned 11 batters to improve to 15-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 27 starts. In 15 road starts this season, the left-hander owns a 10-2 mark with a 2.64 earned run average.

Boston failed to gain any ground in the American League East race and is still 2 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the division standings. New York suffered its fourth straight loss in Anaheim last night. The Red Sox were handed their fourth straight loss too with Saturday's 6-5 defeat to the Rays in 11 innings.

Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard allowed a leadoff triple to Desmond Jennings in the bottom of the 11th and B.J. Upton grounded out afterwards. Evan Longoria then stroked a game-winning single to center, scoring Jennings for the game- winning run. Bard was dealt the loss and starter Kyle Weiland did not post a decision for giving up three runs in four innings.

"Hopefully we'll be able to take some of these bumps and bruises and be able to learn from there," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who tossed two scoreless innings of relief.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all homered for the Red Sox, who still lead the AL Wild Card by 4 ��� games ahead of Tampa Bay. Casey Kotchman homered and drove in two for the Rays, who blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth inning when Ellsbury and Saltalamacchia homered off Kyle Farnsworth.

"It was a really entertaining, well-played game. To win that is significant," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Tampa Bay has won three straight and six of seven games. It is 8-5 against the Red Sox this season.