on September 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Streaking Rays finish best month ever with another win

MIAMI (Reuters) – The surging Tampa Bay Rays won their fifth straight game and completed a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 10-4 home win on Sunday.

James Shields pitched seven strong innings and Jason Bartlett hit his first home run in more than a year as the Rays completed August with a record of 21-8, setting a franchise mark for most wins in one month.

The surprising Rays head into September having the best record in the American League, taking a 5 ½ game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the AL East after Boston lost 4-2 to Chicago.

“We can’t take anything for granted because the moment we do that everything blows up,” Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters. “I think if you take care of the seconds, the minutes and hours will take care of themselves.”

Tampa Bay has the best home field record in the major leagues at 52-19 as the Rays enter the final month of the regular season poised to complete their surprising season by winning their first division title.

Shields (12-8) allowed one run on six hits, striking out one and walking two, to match his career high in wins he set last season. He left after seven innings with a 10-1 lead.

Bartlett paced the 12-hit Ray attack with four hits, scored three runs and drove in two more. His solo home run in the seventh inning was his first since August 27, 2007.

Rocco Baldelli had three hits and drove in a run for the Rays, who rouged up Baltimore starter Brian Burres (7-9) for seven runs on nine hits over five-plus innings, taking a 5-0 lead after just three innings.

“This team has a lot of confidence and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Baldelli said. “We’re getting things done and winning games in a lot of different ways. It’s going to be an exciting September.”

The Orioles have lost 10 of their last 12 games and are a season-worst 10 games under .500 (63-73).

“Not very pretty,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said.

(Writing by Roger Lajoie in Toronto; Editing by Clare Lovell)