HOUSTON -- James Shields set a goal of throwing complete games this season.
He's getting just what he wanted.Shields became the first pitcher in Tampa Bay franchise history to throw three straight complete games and Evan Longoria homered and drove in three runs to lead the Rays to a 5-1 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.Shields (8-4) allowed three hits and struck out nine with one walk.He leads the majors with six complete games this season. He's the first pitcher since the Toronto Blue Jays' Pat Hentgen in 1997 to have six complete-game wins through the first 76 games. Before this season he had just five complete games in his career and hadn't had one since 2008."I definitely didn't think it was going to be this many," Shields said of his complete games. "I thought I was going to get three or four or something like that. It's unbelievable. This is not how I expected to start, but it's exactly how I want to start. So I'm going to try to keep it going."Longoria hit a two-run shot before B.J. Upton's solo homer gave Tampa Bay back-to-back homers for the first time this season in the Rays' four-run third inning. Sean Rodriguez had three hits and scored twice and Longoria drove in a run in the fifth inning.Longoria decided to hit without batting gloves on Friday for the first time since he was a rookie."It hurts my hands, really, so it kind of makes your pitch selection a little better," he said. "You don't want to swing at some balls that you can't really handle. It's just coincidental that what happened, happened tonight. But I guess I'll just keep doing it until either it starts hurting too much or it stops working."Chris Johnson drove in Houston's run with a double in the seventh inning. It was the first earned run Shields has allowed in his last three starts.Rays manager Joe Maddon has run out of words to describe the play of Shields."There's no superlative that I can give you that is adequate," he said. "That's really good stuff."Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez (5-4) allowed six hits and five runs in six innings to lose for the first time since April 24. He had been 4-0 in seven starts since then.Four of Tampa Bay's five runs came by the batters who hit immediately after catcher J.R. Towles left the game with two outs in the third inning with a chin laceration and was replaced by Carlos Corporan. Rodriguez said he had trouble adjusting to Corporan's different style of catching on the fly."I think I missed my location with Corporan because Corporan, he has like a low zone and tight, but Towles is a little more open," Rodriguez said. "That's not my excuse. My situation is that I missed a lot of my location with Corporan (but) I don't want to make it an excuse that I pitched bad because of Corporan."Houston manager Brad Mills wasn't sure if the change caused problems for Rodriguez."Everything happened so quickly," Mills said. "Single, home run, home run. It was just boom. I don't know if it did or not, but you would have liked him to move past that, and then focus."Shields became the fourth pitcher in the last five years to win three complete games. Brandon Webb did it in 2007, CC Sabathia in 2008 and Cliff Lee in 2010.Shields threw 100 pitches the first two, a 4-0 win against the Boston Red Sox and a 2-1 victory over the Florida Marlins, but needed 106 on Friday.Shields sailed through the first three innings and didn't allow a baserunner until Michael Bourn singled with no outs in the fourth inning. He still faced the minimum through four thanks to his defense turning a double play. He hit Johnson with a pitch with two outs in the fifth inning but struck out Clint Barmes to get out of that inning.He walked Bourn with two outs in the sixth, but Jeff Keppinger lined out to end that inning.Brett Wallace got Houston's second hit of the game on a single with two outs in the seventh. Johnson's double sailed over Upton's head and landed on Tal's Hill in center field to score Wallace and make it 5-1.Shields retired the next seven batters after that to end the game.He did, however, go 0-for-4 to leave Tampa Bay's pitchers 0-for-18 this season."I think the only thing I was disappointed in was his at-bats," Maddon said. "Chasing pitches over his head and then taking the called strike down the middle. He's better than that."Sean Rodriguez got Tampa Bay's first hit of the game with two outs in the third inning on a single to left field. He stole second base before scoring on a single by Ben Zobrist to make it 1-0 and break a streak of 14 2/3 scoreless innings by Wandy Rodriguez.Longoria's homer came next to make it 3-0. Upton homered to the Crawford Boxes in left field to push the lead to 4-0. A fan appeared to reach over the wall to grab the ball and the play was reviewed, but the call was upheld.
Towles needed 11 stitches to close a gash that he got after a pitch bounced off the dirt and hit him under the chin but did not have a concussion. ... Houston catcher Humberto Quintero is likely about two weeks away from coming off the disabled list. He has been out since May 28 after sustaining a high right ankle sprain in a collision at home plate. ... Rays reliever J.P. Howell was back with the team after missing Wednesday's game because of gout that was causing pain in his left foot. ... Houston optioned reliever Fernando Rodriguez to Triple-A Oklahoma City and purchased the contract of catcher Brian Esposito from there after the game.