ST. PETERSBURG -- After leading the Rays to a 4-1 win Saturday night with eight-plus innings to move to 3-0, James Shields has worked eight or more innings 18 times in his last 34 starts dating back to April 19, 2011.
Shields and Detroit's Justin Verlander are the only pitchers in the Major Leagues this year with three starts of eight-plus innings, and Shields led the Major Leagues last season with 15 starts of at least eight innings.
The Rays have won Shields' last nine starts at home dating back to July 21 against the Yankees, which is a streak that ties Shields' own record for the most consecutive team wins in home starts by a pitcher (also May 25-Aug. 19, 2008). He is tied with Toronto's Ricky Romero for the longest active such streak in the American League. During this span, Shields is 7-0 with a 2.56 ERA, allowing one run or less in six of those nine starts.
Joyce repeating early-season success
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Joyce entered Sunday's game in the midst of a hot streak.
In his last five games he has hit three home runs, two doubles and has three RBIs in addition to scoring eight runs.
He has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, batting .375 (12.-for-32) during that span.
In 2011, Joyce experienced a torrid spell in April and May when he hit .370 over a 51-game period with nine home runs and 30 RBIs.
Could that be happening again?
"You know, some guys are pattern kind of guys," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And last year it was earlier in the season for him at that point. I don't see why it can't happen if we keep putting him on the right guys.
"Certain lefties I want to play him against. I don't want to play him against all lefties, I think that would hurt him instead of helping him. Up to this point, he's done a nice job and he can get hot, yes."
Maddon pointed out that Joyce "kills righties," citing the fact that Joyce hit .292 against right-handers in 2011 while hitting just .217 against lefties.
"The thing that's hard to calculate is how much does your confidence suffer because you have a couple of bad days against a left-hander?" Maddon said. "[Like] 'I think there's something wrong with my swing. I think I have to do something differently.' When that's the farthest thing from the truth, that's what you think. So those are the kind of things also that impact a baseball player and his mind that we have to be careful with, too."
Sunday, the Rays honored catcher/outfielder Stephen Vogt as the winner of the Al Lopez Award, which is given to the top Rays rookie in Spring Training. Since Vogt was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Friday, Al Lopez III and Al Lopez IV presented the award to Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics on Vogt's behalf. Vogt, 27, made the Opening Day roster after hitting .323 with three RBIs, three doubles and a triple in 15 spring games.
Tony Oliva threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday. The 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and eight-time All-Star was visiting Tropicana Field this weekend because he was inducted into the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame Saturday.
Tickets are still available for the Rays-St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Luncheon scheduled for Wednesday at the St. Petersburg Hilton in Carillon. Rays players Desmond Jennings, Sam Fuld, and Elliot Johnson will be on hand, as well as Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations. The event will be emceed by Rays radio voices Dave Wills and Andy Freed. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit stpete.com.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.