McAllister takes mound in Indians/Rays opener

Zach McAllister tries to build off a solid start in his last outing this evening when the Cleveland Indians open a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

McAllister didn't get a decision against the Rays on July 8, but pitched well, as he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before surrendering four unearned runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings of the Tribe's 7-6 loss. He is 3-1 on the year with a 3.40 ERA.

"It's part of the game," McAllister said afterward. "As a pitcher, you want to pick up your guys, get outs, and not let the runs score. I was not able to do that today."

McAllister has 19 strikeouts in his last three starts. He struck out eight in his last outing against the Rays. This will be McAllister's second-ever start in this series.

Cleveland enters tonight's opener on the heels of dropping two of three to the Toronto Blue Jays, including a 3-0 loss in Sunday's finale.

Derek Lowe (8-7) allowed three runs on three hits and four walks in six innings, not enough to help the Indians avoid their third loss in four games.

Michael Brantley had two doubles for Cleveland. He is 11-for-15 (.733) with four doubles, a home run and two RBI in his last four games. He's raised his batting average from .275 to .302 since June 27.

Trying to slow him down tonight will be right-hander Alex Cobb, who beat Cleveland on July 6. He allowed three runs and six hits in six innings to run his record to 4-5 to go along with a 4..89 ERA.

"It's nice to know my stuff will work against them," Cobb said.

Tampa had a disappointing weekend in Boston, as it dropped two of three, including a 7-3 setback on Sunday at Fenway Park.

James Shields (8-6) was tagged for six runs on 11 hits and three walks in five innings for the Rays, who have alternated wins and losses over their last seven contests. It's the fourth straight start that Shields has given up 10 or more hits.

"Physically Shieldsy is fine," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his starter via his Twitter account. "He's just been unable to execute his pitches. Probably trying to do too much which is true for a lot of guys."

Tampa has split its four meetings with the Indians this season.