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TB@BAL: Shields notches 10 strikeouts vs. Orioles

There's a possibility Rays right-hander James Shields will be traded Tuesday. And that would certainly make for an interesting day, as Shields is the club's scheduled starter in Oakland. However, Shields is doing what he can to put it out of his mind.

"That's the only thing I can really do," Shields said Monday. "I plan on pitching [Tuesday]."

With both teams fighting for a playoff spot -- the A's currently own a Wild Card spot and the Rays are within striking distance -- the three-game series is a big one, and the Rays will need Shields at his best.

The 30-year-old right-hander has been a hot topic in trade talks as Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline approaches. One could argue it has affected his performance as he's 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in July.

He is coming off a three-start stretch in which he allowed 14 earned runs and 21 hits, despite recording 10 strikeouts in two of the three outings. Shields is 8-7 on the season with a 4.52 ERA and remains set to face the A's for the first time in 2012.

"They swing it. There's no doubt," Shields said. "They've got a lot of young guys. A lot of guys who want to win. They've got some good guys on the bench. They've got the best bullpen in the league, next to us. They're a good team over there."

Shields is 4-3 with a 4.58 ERA in 11 career starts against the A's. He is 1-2 with a 6.46 ERA in five starts at The Coliseum.

With already a sub-par track record, he now faces an Oakland team that's one of the hottest in the Majors in July.

"Oakland's a good team. They've done really well since the All-Star break," Shields said. "They're making a push just as much as we are."

Rays: Injured Rays making progress
• Rays manager Joe Maddon said right-hander Jeff Niemann (right fibula fracture) and third baseman Evan Longoria (partially torn left hamstring) are both making nice progress toward returning to the team. Maddon said Niemann will throw a simulated game Friday afternoon at Tropicana Field. Meanwhile, Longoria is being used as a designated hitter at Triple-A Durham and it's reasonable to expect that he will be back with the team at some point during the team's next homestand.

• With a scoreless first inning Monday night, the Rays tied the club record with 24 consecutive scoreless innings. David Price had a chance to beat it by recording an out in the second, but the A's plated a run before he could do so. The Rays blanked the Angels on back-to-back nights and held them scoreless in 25 of 26 innings.

Athletics: Milone hopes to rebound
Opposing Shields will be left-hander Tommy Milone, who is 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA this year. Milone is 1-1 in July with a 2.67 ERA and hopes to conclude what has been his best month of the season on a high note.

Following three starts in which he allowed three runs in 20 innings, he gave up five earned runs to Toronto in his last outing. It was only the A's second loss of the month at the time.

"You just push this one aside," Milone said after the game, "and keep playing the way we've been playing."

Tuesday will mark Milone's second start of the year vs. Tampa Bay. In his first start, on May 6, he allowed five runs on five hits in five innings. But that was at Tampa, and Milone is much better at home (0.91 ERA) than on the road (5.77 ERA).

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