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TB@OAK: Shields tosses three-hit shutout vs. A's

OAKLAND -- Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline wasn't about who the Rays traded for, rather who they kept.

James Shields did not find himself in the uniform of another team on Tuesday night. Instead, the veteran right-hander suited up in his familiar Rays uni with the No. 33 on the back and pitched in a fashion that made the Rays glad they resisted any temptation to trade him to any number of interested teams.

Shields threw a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts, leading the Rays to an 8-0 win over the Athletics at the Coliseum before a crowd of 15,836. It was Shields' third straight start reaching double-digits in strikeouts.

Count Rays manager Joe Maddon among those thankful that Shields still calls Tampa Bay home.

"You look at Shieldsy's body of work, you know he's going to come back and pitch this way," Maddon said. "It's fortunate for us that he's still here. He's going to pitch like this the rest of the season."

Though Shields maintained all along that any trade talk was just a part of the job and that it did not bother him, he allowed that Tuesday night's outing was "very satisfying."

"Obviously all the talk that's been going on, but me personally being able to go deep into the game and go nine innings for the first time this year, I'm really happy about it," Shields said. "Like I said before, it's good to be a Ray. This is my home. Tampa Bay I consider my home so I'm glad to be here."

By winning, the Rays closed the books on a 13-13 July while improving to 54-50 on the season and 5-3 on the current road trip that concludes Wednesday afternoon in Oakland.

The Rays moved to within 6 1/2 games of the Yankees in the American League East and three games out in the race for the top Wild Card spot -- 2 1/2 games behind for the second Wild Card spot.

If ever the Rays needed a starter to go deep, Tuesday night was the night, after the number of pitchers that were needed to cover 15 innings on Monday night. Not only did Shields go deep, he picked up his first complete game of the year, after recording an astounding 11 complete games in 2011.

"It's been awhile since I felt like last year," Shields said. "But I was in control of everything tonight. I was in control of all of my pitches and that's what pitching is all about, if you attack the strike zone and throw a lot of strikes."

Shields entered the game with just two wins in his previous 13 starts. But you wouldn't have guessed that, given the way he attacked the strike zone throughout his outing, conserving pitches and seemingly getting stronger along the way, en route to his ninth win of the season.

Shields noted that he was able to execute an excellent game plan hatched with pitching coach Jim Hickey.

"He just wanted me to throw more fastballs, mix it up more," Shields said. "Not repeat my changeup, [not] repeat my curveball as much. Just basically stay aggressive. He wanted me to stay aggressive early in the game and try to make them swing the bats. That's what I did early in the game."

The Athletics did not have a runner reach as far as second base all night.

"What I think he did well tonight was just keeping balls out of the middle of the plate and was able to get ahead," Seth Smith said. "I faced him four times, and he threw only one good pitch to hit, and that was the last one. So anytime you can get ahead with strikes without throwing anything to hit, you're going to be OK."

Shields retired Smith on a flyout to center field to end the game.

"After last night's game, the bullpen needed a rest," Shields said. "That was the main [thing he wanted to accomplish]. I pointed to [the bullpen] right after the last out just to let them know I got them."

Maddon noted that Shields' effort put his bullpen back in order for Wednesday afternoon's game.

"A game like that tonight can really set up your bullpen for a long time," Maddon said.

Prior to Tuesday night's game, Maddon told reporters that he did not expect his team to have a hangover from the previous night's gut-wrenching, 15-inning loss to the Athletics.

Maddon proved prophetic, from Shields' performance to that of the Rays' struggling offense that got busy early and produced throughout.

B.J. Upton singled off Tommy Milone to drive home the first run of the game with one out in the third. Ben Zobrist grounded out to drive home another to put the Rays up 2-0.

Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez had RBI singles and Carlos Pena added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to push the Rays' lead to 5-0.

The Rays tacked on another in the seventh when shortstop Brandon Hicks couldn't field Upton's grounder, allowing Desmond Jennings to race home with the Rays' sixth run. The Rays added two more in the ninth, including Upton's second RBI.

"That was as clean a game as we've played in a long time," Maddon said. "A clean game."

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