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TEX@TB: Shields dazzles in two-hit shutout of Rangers

Considering his success against the Rays this season, Ivan Nova picked the right time to return from the disabled list.

He's gone 2-1 against Tampa Bay on the season with a 2.57 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 21 innings over three starts. Nova will take the mound for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night in the second game of a weekend series. New York, which is tied with Baltimore atop the AL East, enters the contest with a three-game lead over the Rays.

Nova's last start was an Aug. 21 loss to the White Sox, when he gave up six runs in six innings on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts before right shoulder inflammation forced him to the disabled list.

Nova, who is taking Freddy Garcia's spot in the rotation, is a welcome sight to manager Joe Girardi. With Andy Pettitte also set to come off the disabled list Tuesday, it would mean that his Yankees have their full starting rotation for the first time since June 27 when Pettitte and CC Sabathia were both sidelined.

"I think these guys have overcome a lot of things in that room, a lot of injuries that we've had, things we've had to deal with," Girardi said. "They've found a way to overcome things, and that's what I love about this group. We've missed people for substantial periods of time."

The Rays, who snapped a three-game losing streak on Friday with a 6-4 win, will counter with James Shields.

The righty is coming off a two-hitter, with eight strikeouts, against the Rangers.

He's been no slouch against New York, either, and allowed three runs in eight innings on five hits and three walks with five punchouts in a Sept. 3 outing against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay is in great need of a win to stay in contention in both the American League East and Wild Card standings, and the importance of the game isn't lost on Shields.

"We don't take care of our business, we're gonna sit there and watch October baseball at home. Bottom line," Shields said. "We've gotta do what we gotta do here, and that's win ballgames."

Of course, Shields played a big role in pushing the Rays into the playoffs a year ago when they sneaked into the Wild Card spot thanks to a strong September. He said he believes having that experience should help Tampa Bay again this year.

"There's definitely benefits because you're in it," Shields said. "We were 11 games back in September [last year]. I think every person in the world wrote us off and the next thing you know, you're in the playoffs. But we don't really think of last year. Last year is last year. It's a completely different situation. Last year, we kind of had to win every game."

Rays: Rodriguez set to return Saturday
After he punched a locker as a member of Triple-A Durham and broke his right hand last month, Tampa Bay infielder Sean Rodriguez's season was in serious doubt.

Luckily for Rodriguez, the fracture wasn't serious enough to shut him down for the rest of the year, and he is set to come off the disabled list on Saturday for Tampa Bay after taking infield practice on Friday.

Tampa Bay would figure to use him primarily as a defensive replacement or baserunner because he is still having problems swinging a bat. Rodriguez said he can bunt and swing it but would lack intensity. He added that he would likely need another X-ray before he can fully swing.

Rodriguez was batting .215 with 32 RBIs in 106 games for the Rays prior to being optioned down to the Bulls and breaking his hand.

Yankees: Ailing Jeter passes Mays
Still concerned about the bone bruise on Derek Jeter's left ankle, Girardi put the veteran in the lineup as a designated hitter Friday with Eduardo Nunez at Jeter's usual spot at short.

The bone bruise is not expected to be fully healed without an extended period of rest, but Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman anticipate Jeter will have no problem playing through the pain.

Jeter said he did not know when he would be back at shortstop but said he felt fine to play it.

He went 2-for-5 with a run and two punchouts in Friday's series opener while Nunez went 1-for-3. Jeter's first hit pushed him past Willie Mays for 10th on the all-time list.

Worth noting
• Pettitte threw a bullpen session, fielded ground balls, covered first base and worked on his pickoff move to test his fractured left ankle prior to Friday's game against the Rays.

• Rays outfielder B.J. Upton has seven home runs in his last 10 games.

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