ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Texas Rangers have handed losses to Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver this season.
But they haven't figured out Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields. For the second time in six days, Shields shut down the Rangers' high-powered offense in what became a 5-1 victory for the Rays on Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
Coupled with his start on Wednesday, Shields had held the Rangers scoreless for 16 straight innings before the Rangers avoided the shutout with a run in the ninth.
The Rangers' lead over the second-place Angels in the American League West dipped to 2½ games after Los Angeles defeated the Seattle Mariners 7-3 Monday night.
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Last season, Texas handed Shields a loss in the American League Division Series, scoring four runs off him in 41/3 innings. But things have changed for Shields, who has 11 complete games this season, the most in the majors since Randy Johnson had 12 for the Diamondbacks in 1999.
"He's got a good changeup, man," Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "When you have a good changeup and 90 mph looks more like 96, it's tough. It looks so good to hit it, and then it drops off the table."
Hamilton, who went 0 for 3 with a walk, recalled seeing only one pitch waist-high from Shields all day, and he fouled it off.
Hamilton wasn't alone. David Murphy saw his 10-game hitting streak come to an end, and Michael Young and Ian Kinsler were both hitless in four at-bats.
The Rangers had chances throughout the game, though. Adrian Beltre led off the second inning with a single to right, but Shields retired the next three batters.
In the fourth, Hamilton drew a leadoff walk, but Young grounded into a double play that prevented any real threat that inning.
Mitch Moreland had a two-out double in the fifth, and Elvis Andrus had a one-out double in the sixth. But the Rangers weren't able to bring either of them home, as they went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position the first eight innings.
"He kept us off base, and when we got people on, we couldn't get anything going," hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "He's a tough pitcher. You hope to get to him early, and we just didn't do that."
Texas managed to avoid its eighth shutout of the season. Andrus led off the ninth with a walk, and eventually scored on a groundout by Young.
Rangers starter Scott Feldman couldn't duplicate his success from his last start, when he held the Rays scoreless over six innings on Aug. 30.
Feldman gave up a two-out solo home run to Evan Longoria in the first, but didn't run into trouble again until the fourth. Feldman issued a leadoff walk to Longoria, who stole second and moved to third on a throwing error.
Feldman got Ben Zobrist to pop up, but then walked Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez to load the bases. It backfired when Casey Kotchman came through with a two-run single to center. The Rays made it 4-0 by the end of the inning. Rodriguez scored on a double play ball in which the Rangers had to tag out Kotchman at second, allowing Rodriguez to cross home plate in time.
"I had a chance to get out of the fourth inning, but I tried to be too fine and went for the strikeout," said Feldman, who made a spot start in place of Alexi Ogando. "I got in some deep counts, a lot of 3-2 counts, which got the pitch count up there. So they did a good job being patient, but I've got to do a better job of being a little more over the plate."
The Rays cushioned their lead to 5-0 in the seventh when B.J. Upton belted a solo homer off Merkin Valdez, but Shields was well in control of the game by that point.
"Shields can change speeds, and move the ball around," manager Ron Washington said. "He's got less than a 3.00 ERA, so he's doing something very well. We just haven't been able to figure him out."
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760