Shields changes it up in Rays win

The Tampa Bay Rays inched closer to the top of the AL East standings with a dramatic 5-4, extra-inning walk-off win against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays victory coupled with the Orioles’ loss earlier means Tampa Bay is just a game back in the division after Wednesday’s games.

This was the Rays’ fourth walk-off win of the season, which is the most among AL teams. B.J. Upton delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI double in the bottom of the 11th inning.

It was his fifth career walk-off hit, and four of those have now come against the Blue Jays. The only other Rays player with a walk-off double in the 11th inning or later was Greg Vaughn against the A’s in 2002.

James Shields held Toronto to three runs in seven innings while striking out 10 batters for his second 10-strikeout game this season.

He was effective getting the Blue Jays to chase his pitches, recording 26 swings on 50 pitches out of the strike zone (52 percent), his highest chase rate since 2009.

All 10 of his strikeouts were swinging, and nine came in at-bats ending in a changeup, his most with that pitch over the last four seasons. The Blue Jays went 1-for-13 in at-bats ending in Shields’ changeup and missed on more than half of their swings at the pitch.

The Blue Jays probably wish they didn’t have to play the Rays 10 more times this season. Toronto is now 2-6 versus Tampa Bay and 22-15 versus all other teams this season.

Elsewhere Around The Majors

• The offensive struggles continued for both the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates this season. The two teams have been held to one run or fewer in 14 games, the most among all teams.

The last time the A’s had 14 games of one run or fewer in their first 45 games was 1979 (18), and the last time the Pirates had 14 games of one run or fewer in their first 44 games was 1918 (14).

Jonathon Niese helped the New York Mets beat the Pirates, 3-1, allowing one run in 7⅔ innings. Niese threw 29 pitches on the inner-third of the plate, netting 11 outs and allowing just one hit in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.

Alex Liddi hit his first career grand slam in the Seattle Mariners’ 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers. It was the first grand slam at home by a Mariners player since July 2010. Liddi is the second Italian-born player to hit a grand slam, joining Reno Bertoia, who had one in 1958.

• The Milwaukee Brewers scored six runs in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants and held on for an 8-5 win. The six runs are the most in the first inning for any NL team this season and the most first-inning runs for the Brewers since a 10-run frame on April 18, 2010.