ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tampa Bay came out swinging against their postseason nemesis.
Evan Longoria homered to key a four-run first inning and the Rays won their sixth straight game, beating the Texas Rangers 8-4 Friday night in the first meeting this season between the playoff rivals.
Tampa Bay’s first six batters of the game reached base and it had a 7-1 lead by the fourth inning against Texas starter Matt Harrison (3-1).
“Against a team like this,” said Tampa Bay starter James Shields, who won his fourth straight start, “you have to score runs early.”
The Rangers beat the Rays the past two seasons in the American League Division Series along the way to consecutive World Series appearances.
Harrison was the winning pitcher in the series-clinching Game 4 of the ALDS last season against the Rays.
Even after the building the big lead, Tampa Bay was still a little nervous in the late innings.
Texas’ Elvis Andrus lined out to center with the bases loaded to end the eighth against reliever Wade Davis. The Texas shortstop just missed hitting a grand slam on the previous pitch when his shot down the line in right landed a few feet foul.
“It was the most intense 8-4 game you’re ever going to find in April,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Tampa Bay had a season-high 16 hits in support of Shields (4-0).
The Rays’ ace became the first starter in the AL to win four games this season. Shields, who struck out eight, allowed four runs and 11 hits in six innings.
This is Tampa Bay’s longest winning streak since a seven-game run July 24-30, 2010.
“We’ve been on a nice little streak,” Shields said. “We wanted to get this series started off right.”
Josh Hamilton hit his league-leading ninth home run and Andrus added three hits for the Rangers.
Harrison gave up seven runs and a career-high 14 hits in five innings. The left-hander had allowed a combined four runs in winning his first three starts of the season.
“That’s the way it goes,” Harrison said. “Tonight, they just had my number.”
Tampa Bay pounced on Harrison from the start.
Desmond Jennings singled and Carlos Pena reached on Ian Kinsler’s fielding error at second.
Longoria drove a 3-2 change-up just over the wall in the center. It was his fourth home run of the season.
Ben Zobrist walked, and Jeff Keppinger and B.J. Upton followed with singles. Upton’s hit scored Zobrist and gave the Rays a 4-0 lead.
After Hamilton’s RBI grounder in the first, Tampa Bay picked up a run in the third on Chris Gimenez’s RBI single.
Longoria had an RBI single and scored on Zobrist’s double in the fourth, extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 7-1.
Harrison had his ERA jump from 1.66, which led the AL coming into the game, to 3.38.
“They came out swinging the bats and scored some runs early,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Luke Scott homered in the sixth, and Upton and Keppinger each had three hits for the Rays.
Hamilton hit a two-run blast in the fifth and David Murphy chipped in with a solo shot in the sixth off Shields.
The Rangers had runners on first and third with two outs in the sixth, but Shields induced a weak grounder to the mound from Andrus to end the threat.
Notes: Jennings extended his hitting streak to nine games. … Andrus is now 10 for 16 lifetime against Shields. … Harrison had his seven-game winning streak dating to Sept. 4 come to an end. … Shields improved to 6-2 lifetime against the Rangers.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.