ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay wasted an overpowering pitching performance by James Shields on Tuesday night.
Chris Davis homered for the sixth straight game and the Baltimore Orioles overcame a club-record 15 strikeouts by Shields to beat the Rays 1-0, pushing the AL East race to the final day of the season.
"That is really the crime of the year right there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Great fastball. Great changeup. That's as good as I've ever seen him. They were all in it tonight. There's no letup with that group. That makes it more impressive."
Baltimore remained one game behind the first-place New York Yankees, who rallied late to beat Boston 4-3 in 12 innings.
Shields retired nine in a row before giving up Davis' 33rd homer, a long drive to center.
"I hung a changeup," Shields said. "He's a pretty good hitter. I think that was probably the farthest home run I've ever given up in my career. I sent the bat boy over and told him to tell him, 'Can you hit it any farther?' Just joking around a little bit. He said something like, 'I'm sorry. I'll go and try and hit it 480 feet next time.' I thought that was pretty funny."
Shields whiffed seven of the last nine batters he faced to finish with a flourish.
"I knew this was my last game and I wanted to let it all hang out," Shields said. "I wanted to end on a good note, end on a bang. That was probably the best game of my career."
Tampa Bay said Shields became the first pitcher since at least 1918 to take a loss while striking out 15 or more with no walks and two hits allowed or less.
"He was brilliant," Maddon said.
Davis joined Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson as the only Baltimore players to homer in six consecutive games, connecting off Shields (15-10) in the fourth. The Orioles managed only one other hit — Nate McLouth's sixth-inning infield single — in Shields' 19th career complete game and third this season.
The Orioles, guaranteed at least a wild-card spot, clinched their first playoff berth in 15 years late Sunday. They need a victory Wednesday and a Yankees loss to force a one-game tiebreaker for the division title Thursday at Camden Yards.
Baltimore rookie Miguel Gonzalez (9-4) limited the Rays to two singles over 6 1-3 innings. The right-hander walked two and struck out seven before manager Buck Showalter turned the game over to the bullpen.