Returning All-Star right-hander James Shields aims for an American League-best fifth victory of the season tonight when the host Tampa Bay Rays entertain the Seattle Mariners in game three of a four-game series at Tropicana Field.
Shields, who turned 30 in December, was third in AL Cy Young Award voting last season after winning 16 games in 33 starts with a 2.82 earned run average and a league-high 11 complete games.
He logged a career-high 249 1/3 innings and struck out 225 batters while allowing 195 hits and walking 65.
Shields began the season with a five-inning outing in a no-decision against New York on April 6 and has won each of four starts since, including an 8-4 win at Texas on April 27 in which he scattered 11 hits and struck out eight without a walk.
He's averaged seven innings per start and has allowed 35 hits and 13 runs while allowing a .257 opposition batting average. Shields is 3-4 lifetime against Seattle with a 4.04 ERA.
The Mariners counter with 23-year-old righty Blake Beavan, who debuted in the majors last season with 15 starts and five wins and has won one of three decisions in four starts thus far in his second year.
He tossed seven innings of six-hit, three-run ball in a 5-3 victory over Oakland on April 15, but has followed up with a loss and a no-decision against Chicago and Toronto.
In 25 composite innings this spring, Beavan has given up 10 runs on 25 innings with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
He has never faced the Rays.
On Tuesday, with all-star third baseman Evan Longoria sidelined for the next four to eight weeks with a partially torn left hamstring, Matt Joyce lifted Tampa Bay to a 3-1 victory.
Longoria left Monday night's 3-2 win after the third inning when he slid awkwardly into second base.
Joyce, who took over Longoria's third spot in the batting order, belted a solo home run and added an RBI triple while starter Matt Moore (1-1) scattered seven hits and walked one over his five innings of work, but allowed just one run and struck out seven to earn the victory.
Luke Scott knocked in the other run for the Rays while Fernando Rodney fanned all three hitters he faced in the ninth for his eighth save of the year and the Rays' seventh straight home victory.
Hector Noesi (1-3) tossed 5 2/3 innings and was charged with all three runs on three hits and three walks. Jesus Montero had a career-high four hits in the setback as the Mariners dropped their fourth straight contest.
The Rays won six of their 10 matchups with the Mariners last season.