(Sports Network) - Two teams with postseason aspirations battle on Wednesday when the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics play the rubber match of a three-game set at the Coliseum.
Both Oakland and Tampa are within striking distance in their respective divisions, but their likely routes to the playoffs will come in the wild card, where the A's currently hold one of the two spots with the Rays trailing by 2 1/2 games.
Tampa got a little closer in that race on Tuesday, as James Shields fanned 11 hitters en route to his first shutout of the season in the Rays' 8-0 triumph.
With the 11 Ks, Shields (9-7) became the first pitcher in team history to strike out 10 or more hitters in three consecutive starts. He allowed just three hits and did not issue a walk in the victory for the Rays, their third in the last four games.
"He had a real simple approach to the game and came out throwing fastballs," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was textbook, he was outstanding. I loved his approach today. Throw your fastball and hit your spots."
B.J. Upton finished 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI while Desmond Jennings and Jeff Keppinger added RBI base hits for the Rays. Ben Zobrist, Carlos Pena and Sean Rodriguez each contributed an RBI in the win.
Jemile Weeks, George Kottaras and Chris Carter each had a hit in defeat for the A's, who finished the month of July with an outstanding 19-5 record. They didn't have a runner reach second base all night.
Tom Milone (9-8) was tagged with the loss after allowing five runs on seven hits and a walk over six innings.
"He just probably didn't have his best command," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said about Milone. "I think we probably have to cut him a break. He's been so good here that you're not always going to be that good."
Heading to the hill for the Rays this afternoon will be Alex Cobb, who is 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in his last six starts. Cobb's latest loss came on Friday in Anaheim, as he allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings to fall to 4-8 to go along with a 4.93 ERA.
He has lost eight of his last 10 starts and could be the odd man out when Jeff Niemann returns from the disabled list.
"You can stress about that your whole career, really," Cobb said. "Just because it's getting down to where a few starts until he's back, you don't look at it any differently than you have your whole career. You go out there every start trying to win and compete in every game. If you do that, then you don't worry about all the little things that go along with it. My approach is going to stay the same whether he's ready tomorrow or late August or September."
Oakland, meanwhile, will counter with righty Jarrod Parker, who has been a big reason behind the A's success this season, but hasn't been sharp his last few times out. Parker was roughed up by the Baltimore Orioles on Friday to the tune of six runs and eight hits in five innings. He also struck out eight batters, but did not factor in the decision of his team's 14-9 win.
"A couple bad pitches I'd like to have back," Parker said afterward. "Some of those pitches I probably could have hit out of the park."
Parker, who has never faced the Rays, has given up four or more runs in three of his last four starts and is 7-4 on the year with a 3.38 ERA.
Oakland took two of three from the Rays earlier in the year.
08/01 10:39:31 ET