- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

BALTIMORE | Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has been complaining lately about his team getting too many homers, too many strikeouts and not enough solid hits with runners in scoring position.

In an 11-3 rout of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Rays hit four home runs and went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position. As an added bonus, Tampa Bay got a fine pitching performance from James Shields.

But the Rays struck out 11 times. So even after Tampa Bay compiled a season-high 17 hits, Maddon wasn't satisfied.

“We have to do a little bit better job of situational hitting, driving runners in from third with less than two outs,” Maddon said. “That happens more through line drives and ground balls than fly balls.”

Despite Maddon's nitpicking, the defending AL champions were content to end their first road trip with a 3-3 record, especially because Sunday's win enabled Tampa Bay to avoid a three-game sweep. The Rays open the home portion of their schedule Monday night against the New York Yankees.

“I think everybody did a good job of rebounding from the last couple of days. We feel pretty comfortable,” said Ben Zobrist, who hit a three-run homer. “Going into our home opener it would have been tough to lose three straight here.”

Evan Longoria hit his major league-leading fifth home run, and Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena also connected for the Rays. All four homers came off Brian Bass, who allowed seven runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Longoria went 3-for-5 to up his batting average to .481. He has five straight multihit games and at least one RBI in five of his six starts.

Shields (1-1) allowed three hits in seven innings, struck out three and walked one. It was a solid bounce-back performance for the right-hander, who gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings in Tampa Bay's season-opening 5-3 loss to Boston.

“I really didn't do too much different today,” Shields said. “I got here a little bit earlier. That's about it.”

Dan Wheeler allowed one hit in the eighth before Grant Balfour was tagged for three runs in the ninth.

Luke Scott and Felix Pie drove in the only runs for the Orioles, who take to the road after going 4-2 against the Yankees and Rays. Baltimore's two defeats are by a combined 22-5 score.

“I think you've got to just accept today for what it was and move on,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

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