St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) – Evan Longoria went 3-for-4 with a solo homer, two run-scoring doubles and knocked in four, as the Tampa Bay Rays completed a three-game sweep of the American League West Division-leading Texas Rangers with an 8-6 win at Tropicana Field.
B.J. Upton finished with two hits, including a solo shot and stole two bases for Tampa Bay, which has won seven of nine and moved a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees atop the AL East. The Rays earned their sixth series sweep of three or more games this season. The club last swept Texas from May 15-17, 2007.
James Shields (11-11) snapped a two-start losing skid after working seven solid innings. The right-hander allowed two runs — one earned — on four hits, struck out six and walked one. Rafael Soriano retired the final two hitters in the ninth to earn his 35th save of the season.
Mitch Moreland clubbed a two-run homer and Taylor Teagarden chipped in with a solo shot for the Rangers, who have dropped five of seven.
Derek Holland (2-2), who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to the game to make the start in place of Rich Harden, who was put on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis, yielded five runs on six hits with four walks and struck out eight over 4 1/3 innings. Holland had been sidelined with left rotator cuff inflammation and a right knee injury since his last start on May 30.
Tampa Bay pushed across a two-out run in the first to grab an early lead. Carl Crawford singled and came around to score on Longoria’s double to center.
The Rangers stranded a runner in the third and two more in the fourth before Longoria cracked a leadoff homer just inside the left-field foul pole to give the Rays a 2-0 advantage in the home fourth.
Teagarden’s one-out solo shot to left in the fifth cut the Rangers deficit in half. However, the Rays answered with three in the home portion.
Upton started the inning with a solo homer and the next two batters walked. After Longoria chased in a run with a double, Carlos Pena struck out. Alexi Ogando entered in place of Holland and fanned Kelly Shoppach, then intentionally walked Ben Zobrist to load the bases. The right-hander proceeded to walk pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to force in another and put the hosts up 5-1.
Andres Blanco led off the sixth with an infield base hit, advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on Shields’ wild pitch. Crawford’s sacrifice fly in the bottom half restored the Rays’ four-run cushion.
Joyce’s RBI single in the seventh put Tampa Bay ahead 7-2. In the eighth, Joaquin Arias singled and went to third on Julio Borbon’s double before Texas got two runs back on run-scoring groundouts from Blanco and Josh Hamilton.
Longoria’s sac fly in the home eighth scored Jason Bartlett, who singled, went to second on an error and stole third to make it 8-4.
Jorge Cantu reached base on a one-out fielder’s choice in the ninth and Moreland belted a homer to right to close the gap to two. Soriano was summoned from the bullpen and retired the last two batters to lock down the win.
Texas took two of three from the Rays earlier in the year, but has lost 13 of its last 16 at Tropicana Field…Tampa Bay went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10, while Texas finished 1-for-4 with RISP and left only three.