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American League Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, May 23rd (All times Eastern)

Toronto Blue Jays (24-20) at Tampa Bay Rays (26-18), 1:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Toronto - Ricky Romero (5-1, 3.64) Tampa Bay - James Shields (6-2, 3.77)

(Sports Network) - James Shields has suffered a pair of losses since having his career-long winning streak snapped. He'll try to avoid consecutive defeats for the first time since September as his Tampa Bay Rays wrap up a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Shields last lost back-to-back outings when he dropped decisions in Boston and New York on Sept. 16 and Sept. 21 before closing out his 2011 regular season with a home win over the Yankees.

That began a six-game winning streak that included victories in his first five decisions of 2012, a run that ended with a loss at the Yankees on May 8. After bouncing back to win at Baltimore, despite six runs (4 earned) allowed over 6 1/3 frames, the right-hander suffered another loss versus the Braves on Friday.

Shields, who hasn't logged a complete game yet this season after having 11 a season ago, gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings, striking out eight in a 5-3 defeat. He fell to 6-2 with a 3.77 earned run average in nine games this year.

The 30-year-old won all three of his starts versus the Blue Jays last season, posting a 0.71 ERA while holding them to a pair of runs in 25 1/3 innings.

Toronto will start 27-year-old lefty Ricky Romero, who had a four-decision win streak snapped on May 13 with a loss at Minnesota before bouncing back to best the Mets on Friday. He hurled six innings of one-run ball while scattering three hits and four walks with six strikeouts.

Romero didn't have his best control, walking four to give him 14 free passes over his last three outings, but didn't need it as Toronto won 14-5. Romero moved to 5-1 with a 3.64 ERA in nine starts.

Romero's record includes a win over the Rays on April 17 as he allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings of a 7-3 triumph. He is 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA in 11 career outings in this series.

Romero will try to pitch the Blue Jays to their first series victory on the road over the Rays since taking two of three from April 6-8, 2007. Toronto won the opener on Monday, but was handed an 8-5 defeat last night.

Hitting leadoff for the first time in his career, Carlos Pena hit a long three-run homer to break the game open in the fourth inning, snapping an 0- for-18 skid in the process, while Luke Scott and B.J. Upton added homers.

Starter Matt Moore failed to make it out of the fifth inning, but Tampa Bay's bullpen allowed only one run over 4 1/3 combined frames.

"We talk about winning ugly, but in the end, they're all kind of beautiful, actually," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The Rays snapped a two-game slide and remained two games behind the Orioles for first place in the American League East.

The Blue Jays are four games out of first and got a solo homer from Yan Gomes last night as well as three hits and two RBI by Jose Bautista. Drew Hutchison was charged with six runs over four innings in the loss, only Toronto's second in seven games.

"I just didn't make good pitches tonight," said Hutchison. "I wasn't executing quality pitches down in the zone. I just didn't give us a chance to win."

The Rays had won their last four encounters against the Blue Jays by a 32-10 score -- all in Toronto -- prior to this series and have taken 12 of the past 16 meetings overall.

05/23 10:43:17 ET

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