Rays take their swings against Romero

Toronto lefty Ricky Romero makes his 11th career start against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight when the Blue Jays open a three-game series with them at Rogers Centre.

Romero, who won 15 games in 32 starts last season, is 5-4 in 10 lifetime outings against the Rays, posting a 3.18 earned run average across 68 innings with 58 strikeouts and 32 walks.

In two starts so far this season, he's 1-0 while allowing six hits and five runs in 13 1/3 innings - defeating Boston, 3-1, and picking up a no-decision against Boston.

The 27-year-old Californian pitched a career-high 225 innings in 2011 while surrendering just 176 hits and striking out 178 batters.

For Tampa Bay, 29-year-old righty Jeff Niemann - the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft - makes his second start of 2012.

The 6-foot-9 Houston native allowed four hits and three runs in five innings at Detroit on April 12, dropping a 7-2 verdict to the Tigers.

He is 4-3 in 11 starts against Toronto with a 5.23 ERA in 63 2/3 innings.

Niemann won 11 games in 23 starts for the Rays last season.

On Monday in Boston, James Shields pitched into the ninth inning and Evan Longoria drove in the lone run of the contest as Tampa Bay nipped the Red Sox, 1-0, to avoid a four-game sweep at Fenway Park.

Shields (2-0) let up four hits and a pair of walks while striking out five in 8 1/3 innings for the Rays, while Fernando Rodney picked up his fourth save of the year by recording the last two outs.

Meanwhile, in Toronto on Sunday, Brett Lawrie hit a solo homer and drove in three runs, as the Blue Jays dominated the Baltimore Orioles, 9-2, to also avoid a three-game sweep. Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays, who are 3-3 on a nine-game homestand.

Kyle Drabek (2-0) gave two runs - one earned - on six hits in 7 1/3 innings to pick up the win. He struck out six and walked one.

Tampa was 12-6 versus the Jays last season.