Shields will take the Tropicana Field mound on Sunday in the finale of a three-game series against the Rangers. Riding a streak of seven straight quality starts, he agreed before Saturday's game that he is in a good place at the moment.
"Yeah, I've pitched well over the last eight or nine starts or so," Shields said. "I'm just trying to stay as consistent as possible. I obviously had a rough stretch for a month and a half there at the middle of the year. But right now I'm feeling pretty good."
Shields (13-8, 3.88 ERA) and the Rays are gunning for a series victory against the Rangers, who will send Roy Oswalt to the mound for his first start in more than two weeks. This will be the last regular-season meeting for two teams that have met two years in a row in the American League Division Series.
They could be headed that way again. Texas leads the AL West, while Tampa Bay sits two games back of Baltimore and New York in the AL East and in the race for the second Wild Card spot.
Shields' ERA reached as high as 4.52 after his start on July 26, but since then, he has compiled a 2.22 mark. In 52 2/3 innings over that span, he has allowed 30 hits and eight walks while striking out 47. On Monday, he held the Yankees to three runs on five hits in eight innings.
"Yeah, I feel like I'm in a pretty good rhythm right now," he said. "I've been working really hard in my bullpen sessions with [pitching coach Jim] Hickey. Like I said, just really staying consistent. And once I get out there not try to do too much."
Oswalt (4-2, 5.85) has made eight starts this season, the last coming when he gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Twins on Aug. 23. His only appearance since then came on Tuesday, when he gave up one run in 2 1/3 innings of relief against the Royals, striking out four.
Lefty Matt Harrison originally was scheduled to start on Sunday but was pushed back to Tuesday so he can get some extra rest. That cleared the way for Oswalt, and manager Ron Washington is hoping the 12-year veteran can soak up at least five innings.
"I think that this is gonna be predicated on the workload he goes through facing those hitters," Washington said. "I'm hoping five. He should be able to get out there and get close to a hundred [pitches]. It'll depend on if he can get some quick outs. [Does he] have to fight to get outs?"
Rangers: Profar in the lineup, but not to stay
Jurickson Profar got the start at shortstop on Saturday, with Elvis Andrus sliding to designated hitter. It was the 19-year-old's first start since his Sept. 2 debut, and he smacked the go-ahead RBI double in the 10th inning.
Washington said he prefers to stick with the lineup that has carried the team this far, so Profar figures to see most of his action off the bench. He pinch-hit in the 11th inning of Friday's game and struck out after going 2-for-4 with a home run in his debut.
"I think his offense is a little advanced," Washington said. "He has a decent approach. Just give him an opportunity to stay balanced and do the things he has to do with his hands."
Catcher Mike Napoli, sidelined by a strained left quad since Aug. 10, will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco when it kicks off the Texas League Championship series on Tuesday.
Rays: Davis acclimating to relief work
Until this season, all of Wade Davis' 64 Major League appearances came as a starting pitcher. In 2012, all of his 47 appearances have been out of the bullpen, and the right-hander has made the most of the switch.
His scoreless 10th and 11th innings on Friday -- his 27th birthday -- came with five strikeouts and improved his mark to 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA. Davis has held the opposition scoreless in 15 of his 16 games since the All-Star break, while striking out 29 in 20 2/3 innings.
"It's fun," Davis said of relief work. "You want to go out there and contribute. You want to help the team win. You want to feel like you were a part of it. That's kind of our goal."
Lefty David Price, who missed his scheduled start on Saturday with left shoulder soreness, played catch for the second straight day instead and said he, "felt good." He now is scheduled to start next weekend against the Yankees in New York, likely after a Tuesday bullpen session.
Oswalt's only career start against the Rays came with the Astros in 2008.
Shields is 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Rangers this season, both at Texas, and has a 3.13 mark in 10 career outings. That doesn't include two playoff starts, in which he allowed 11 runs in 9 1/3 innings.