Rays hope to avoid sweep against Rangers

The Tampa Bay Rays haven't been swept in over two months, but that could happen Wednesday night in the finale of a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rays last suffered a sweep from June 25-27 against the Kansas City Royals and have dropped the first two meetings with Texas. After a 6-5 loss on Monday, the Rays were handed a 1-0 setback last night. Rays starter James Shields made one mistake in the fourth inning by giving up a leadoff home run to Ian Kinsler and lasted seven innings on the hill.

Shields struck out eight and walked two batters.

"We gotta get better, we gotta be able to win those games," Shields said. "We gotta get better towards the end of the game there and try to scratch some more runs and pitch better. It's frustrating."

Sam Fuld had three of the Rays' seven hits.

Tampa Bay has dropped a season high-tying four in row and will also visit Toronto for four games on this road trip. The club is five games in back of New York for AL East bragging rights and 1 1/2 games off the Wild Card lead.

Alex Cobb has the luxury of trying to pitch the Rays out of their slump tonight and he is 4-0 in his past five starts. He tossed a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over Oakland on Thursday, striking out eight and walking two, and improved to 8-8 in 17 starts with a 4.32 earned run average.

Cobb is 4-3 in eight road appearances this season and did not record a decision the only time he faced the Rangers in a 5-4 win last May 31, when he was reached for three runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Texas has won four straight series and is aiming for the sweep tonight.

The AL West-leading Rangers received a dominant showing from rookie starter Yu Darvish in last night's victory, as he fired seven shutout innings and struck out 10 batters. Mike Adams and Joe Nathan each threw a scoreless inning of relief, with Nathan posting his 27th save.

"He was outstanding, he really was, especially after the second, got into the third and he began to execute his pitches," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Darvish. "I think he showed what he's made of."

Kinsler had the big hit in the fourth inning for Texas, which won for the ninth time in 11 tries and sits 5 1/2 games ahead of Oakland for the division lead.

Texas will begin a 10-game road trip Friday against the Indians, Royals and Rays, and hopes Matt Harrison can pitch the club to a series sweep Wednesday. Harrison has won two straight starts and three of his past four decisions, including an 8-0 win over Minnesota on Friday. He only allowed two hits through eight scoreless innings and pushed his record to 15-7 in 25 starts to go along with a 3.04 earned run average.

Harrison, a left-hander, lost to the Rays back on April 27 and is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in five career games (2 starts) against them.

The Rays took two of three from Texas in that April series in Arlington, and will host the Rangers for three games Sept. 7-9 at Tropicana Field.