Rays/Orioles Preview

James Shields and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will square off tonight against the Baltimore Orioles in the second game of a three game series.

The Baltimore Orioles haven't been winning many series lately, but maybe they just needed another against an AL East rival.

The Orioles go for consecutive victories when they continue their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Wednesday at Camden Yards.

Baltimore (15-18) has failed to win its last five series, going 3-11 in that span, but hopes an 8-3 victory in Tuesday's series opener was a step in the right direction. The Orioles improved to 8-4 against division opponents this season and jumped over Tampa Bay (14-18) for the third spot in the AL East.

Baltimore took two of three games between these teams in their first series of 2007, and has won nine of the last 11 meetings. Nick Markakis hit a two-run homer Tuesday for the Orioles, Jay Gibbons went 3-for-4 with a solo shot and Melvin Mora drove in two runs.

"I had some good swings and some bad swings tonight. I do feel better," Gibbons told the Orioles' official Web site after boosting his batting average from .188 to .213 following three games on the bench. "Just sitting there for a few days isn't fun."

Markakis and Mora have both had success against James Shields (3-0, 3.74 ERA), who takes the ball for Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Markakis is 4-for-9 with a home run during his career against the right-hander, while Mora is 5-for-10 with a homer.

Shields has been tough to beat this season, though. He leads the Devil Rays in victories, is trying to win his third straight start, and has pitched into the seventh inning of every outing this season.

He allowed three runs and nine hits while striking eight over 7 1-3 innings in a 6-4 win over Minnesota on Thursday. Shields worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth by striking out Joe Mauer and getting Justin Morneau to hit into a double play.

"He kept his composure very nicely," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Made some wonderful pitches. Another wonderful performance."

Shields' worst start of the season came against Baltimore on April 16, when he allowed five runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings, but didn't record a decision in a 9-7 loss. He has made three career starts versus the Orioles, posting a 5.89 ERA but failing to earn a decision.

The Orioles counter with Erik Bedard (3-2, 5.63), who has allowed four or more runs in four of his seven starts this season, but is coming off a strong effort against Cleveland on Friday.

The left-hander allowed two runs and three hits over six innings of a game the Orioles won 3-2 in 10 innings. Bedard hasn't recorded a victory since beating Tampa Bay 6-4 on April 18, when he gave up four runs and seven hits while striking out eight over 5 2-3 innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 16 career games versus the Devil Rays - more than double the number of wins he has against any other opponent. Bedard will try to slow Tampa Bay second baseman B.J. Upton, who is batting .447 with three homers and three doubles during a career-high 10-game hitting streak.

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