Texas Rangers yield to pair of penetrating Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The first pitch right-hander Roy Oswalt threw Sunday afternoon was swatted for an opposite-field home run by B.J. Upton.

Oswalt's day could only get better, it would have seemed, but it actually turned out getting worse.

That wasn't good news for the Texas Rangers at the end of a 10-game road trip, especially with James Shields pitching for Tampa Bay and Upton locked in with his home-run swing.

Shields tossed a two-hit shutout against the top scoring team in baseball, and Upton connected for three solo homers as the Rays sent the Rangers packing for Arlington with a 6-0 loss.

Oswalt allowed four runs in two innings, and was forced to leave after only 49 pitches with a sore elbow. Martin Perez allowed two runs in five innings of relief, but the Rangers' offense couldn't do anything against Shields.

"James Shields was on today, and I think you have to tip your cap to B.J. Upton, too," manager Ron Washington said. "Shields had a tremendous changeup. He didn't make a whole lot of mistakes, and we couldn't find the fat part of the bat."

The Rangers finished their 10-game trek through Cleveland, Kansas City and Tampa Bay with a 6-4 record, but their lead in the American League shrunk a half-game to 3 1/2 over second-place Oakland. Third-place Los Angeles gained 2 1/2 games and is six back.

But the Rangers like the way they played on the road trip, which included a stretch of three straight extra-inning games. Two of those came at Tropicana Field after arriving to the team hotel at 5 a.m. Friday.

Asked if the Rangers might not have had any energy for the finale, Washington said that fatigue is only an excuse.

Fatigue wasn't what hurt the Rangers on Sunday. Shields and Upton did.

"When a guy like that is pitching like that, he makes you look like you're lethargic," Washington said.

Said veteran Michael Young: "This is a veteran team, and we know what a big-league schedule means. When you're a veteran team, you know what it takes to get a second wind."

Shields, though, stole any wind the Rangers might have had.

He allowed an infield single to Nelson Cruz to start the second before retiring the next 19 hitters. David Murphy finally delivered a clean single to center field with two outs in the eighth.

Shields (14-8) finished with eight strikeouts, didn't walk a batter, and needed only 101 pitches as the Rangers were shut out for the third time this season.

"He worked ahead in the count, and when he had to, he expanded late in count," Young said. "Obviously, he pitched a good game."

Oswalt (4-3) said that he is dealing with an elbow injury for the first time in his long career, but the right-hander doesn't think there is any significant damage.

He suffered some tightness in his flexor muscle while throwing a slider to the Rays' second hitter, Jeff Keppinger, but tried to pitch through the tightness. He allowed a two-out RBI double to Matt Joyce in the first and a two-run homer to Jose Molina in the second.

"If I had to keep starting, I'd probably be a little bit worried," Oswalt said. "But throwing an inning here and there shouldn't be a problem. In a couple days I should be all right. Maybe."

Upton grounded out in his final at-bat to end his bid for a four-homer game. He connected against Perez to start the fourth and with one out in the sixth.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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