Rays take first game of doubleheader from O's; Magic number now three

BALTIMORE -- The Tampa Bay Rays keep on reaching milestones, and their latest victory brought them closer to perhaps the most significant accomplishment of a magical regular season.

James Shields pitched seven effective innings to earn his 14th win, and the Rays reduced their magic number to win the AL East to three by beating the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 Tuesday night in the first game of a doubleheader.

Any combination of Tampa Bay wins and Boston losses totaling three will give the Rays their first division title. The Red Sox defeated Cleveland 5-4 later Tuesday night.

"We can taste it," Shields said.

The victory enabled the Rays to match the 1991 Atlanta Braves for most wins (94) by a team that owned the worst record in the majors one year earlier.

Beating out Boston is within the Rays' grasp, but manager Joe Maddon is holding out hope that Tampa Bay can edge out the Los Angeles Angels for best record in the AL.

"They have 97. We have 94. I want them to keep that goal in mind, also," he said. "Getting home-field advantage throughout would be very, very special."

Shields (14-8) tied the club record for wins, set in 1998 by Rolando Arrojo. The right-hander gave up eight hits, struck out eight and walked one in his career-high 32nd start of the season.

"I worked hard," Shields said. "From here on out, that's my goal -- to work hard to get those types of wins."

Dan Wheeler worked the ninth for his 13th save, the second in two games. Tampa Bay's regular closer, Troy Percival, was back in Tampa Bay getting epidural shots on his back.

Rookie Fernando Perez went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and Jason Bartlett also had three hits for the Rays, who are 13-3 against the Orioles after beating them 10 straight times.

Lou Montanez hit a two-run homer for the Orioles, who have lost seven in a row and 26 of 32. Garrett Olson (9-10) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings but lost his third straight start.

"He didn't pitch good enough to win," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

After Montanez gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Rays pulled even in the fifth. Dioner Navarro hit a leadoff double and Bartlett singled before Olson threw wildly to first on a pickoff move, allowing Navarro to score. Perez followed with an RBI double.

"I think that was definitely a big turning point in the game," Olson said of his errant toss. "I felt like after that happened, lose that lead, pretty soon it's a tie ballgame."

Tampa Bay took the lead in the sixth when Navarro singled and scored on a double by Bartlett, and Carlos Pena got his 101st RBI with a two-out single off Lance Cormier in the seventh.

In the eighth, Perez got credit for an RBI single when his attempted squeeze bunt popped out of the glove of pitcher Alberto Castillo, who attempted to make a diving grab.

Game notes

Baltimore's Omir Santos got his first major league hit, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. ... In the second game, the Rays were seeking the first doubleheader sweep in franchise history.