After going 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA last season and not completing any games, Shields logged his 14th win of the season Monday, lowered his ERA to 2.77, broke the 200-strikeout mark for the first time and logged his big-league-leading 11th complete game.
"If we were any better offensively the whole year, he'd probably have 20 wins by now," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "It's more than a bounce-back year. It's a career year for him."
Even more impressive, in Monday's 5-1 win, Shields shut down the powerful Rangers for the second straight start. He allowed one run over 17 innings in those two outings.
"This year, the guy has been able to finish off whatever he starts," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We haven't been able to figure him out."
Shields is the first pitcher to have 11 complete games since Randy Johnson had 12 in 1999 for Arizona, and the first in the AL since Scott Erickson has 11 for Minnesota in 1998.
--C Jose Lobaton's expanded playing time will come at the expense of veteran C Kelly Shoppach, whose $3.2 million option for next year is unlikely to be picked up by the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon said the move is being done so the team can get a better sense of what Lobaton can do. "All you should really draw from it is the fact that we want to see more of Lobaton right now more than anything," Maddon said. "We need to evaluate him. We know what we have with Shopp pretty much."
--DH Johnny Damon was out of the lineup Monday, still sore from getting hit by a pitch near the right knee in Sunday's game. Damon was available to pinch-hit, but he didn't get into the game.
--INF/OF Ben Zobrist returned to the lineup Monday, his first action since leaving Friday's game with a stiff neck. He went 0-for-4, leaving him 7-for-52 (.135) with two RBI over his past 13 games.
--RHP Jeff Niemann welcomes the chance Tuesday to make amends for his outing last week against the Rangers, when he got roughed up, allowing five runs over five innings. "It didn't go how we wanted it to last time," Niemann said. "I look forward to getting another crack at it."
--Manager Joe Maddon picked up his 500th career victory, including a 19-10 interim stint with the Angels in 1999, in Monday's win over Texas. Maddon said his success was "a tribute to the front office and quality of players that we've gotten in here." Since the start of 2008, Maddon is 354-272. "You can see the difference between (2006) and (2007) and (2008) to the present time, so that's pretty much where that record lies," he said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Homers for 3B Evan Longoria since the All-Star break, tops among AL hitters.