The Angels finally managed a few runs against Tampa Bay's major league-leading pitching staff after getting shut out in the previous three meetings.
They would have had to score in double digits to overcome the worst outing of Jered Weaver's career.
Weaver gave up nine earned runs in three-plus innings Friday night in a 12-3 loss — his first back-to-back defeats of the season following a 4-1 setback last Sunday against Seattle. The three-time All-Star, whose next scheduled outing will be against Boston at Fenway Park, hasn't lost three consecutive starts since dropping four in a row in May 2011.
"There are going to be times when stuff like this happens, but it's obviously not a good time of the year for it to happen," Weaver said. "It was just one of those weird nights. My fastball command wasn't good. The only thing that was really good was my changeup, but I can't throw that every pitch. Everything they were hitting was finding holes and finding gaps, so what are you going to do? Obviously it's disappointing, but you can't dwell on it."
Weaver (15-3) gave up eight hits in his shortest outing of the season, including solo homers by Ben Zobrist in the first inning and B.J. Upton in the second. It was the sixth time the right-hander allowed multiple homers in consecutive outings during his seven-year career. Seattle's Jesus Montero went deep twice against him last Sunday.
"Hitting is contagious," said Upton, who went 4 for 5 with three RBIs. "Anytime you can get something going and get men on base, pitchers really can't shy away from contact. They have to throw strikes. Tonight we were taking advantage of the good pitches that we were given."
Weaver lost only one of his first 16 decisions, a 13-6 rout by the Texas Rangers in which he gave up eight earned runs. He came in with a major league-best 2.54 home ERA since the start of his 2006 rookie season.
"Jered's a guy who's been pitching really well, and sometimes you have games like this. But that's baseball," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "I'm pretty sure he'll bounce back his next start and keep moving forward."
It was only the third time this season that Weaver allowed more than one home run. The Yankees hit three off him on July 15, but he escaped the Bronx with a 10-8 victory.
"Weaver's a good pitcher and he's been pitching really, really well all season long," Rays starter James Shields said. "I know as well as anybody that sometimes you're going to have bad days, and tonight our team did a great job of getting to him early."
Weaver, who came in with a chance to tie Tampa Bay's David Price for the major league lead in wins, faced eight batters and threw 24 pitches in the fourth inning without recording an out.
Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts had RBI singles, Molina followed with a two-run single and Desmond Jennings chased Weaver with an RBI double. Upton greeted LaTroy Hawkins with a two-run single that extended Tampa Bay's lead to 9-1.
"I kind of took it easy in the bullpen before the game, just trying to locate, but my secondary pitches weren't sharp, and I knew that coming in," Weaver said. "When you don't have anything coming off your fastball, it's going to be a long night. I couldn't miss any bats. I tried to battle as much as possible, but it obviously caught up with me there in the fourth."
Shields (11-7) allowed three runs, seven hits and no walks in six innings while striking out eight, helping the Rays maintain a one-game lead over Detroit and Baltimore in the AL wild-card race. The Orioles lost to the Tigers after starting the day tied with Tampa Bay.
Shields, the subject of trade rumors before the non-waiver deadline on July 31, is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts since. The 30-year-old right-hander was 1-3 with a 6.15 ERA in a seven-start stretch before the deadline passed.
The Angels finally ended their string of 34 consecutive scoreless innings against the Rays with Erick Aybar's leadoff homer in the third. Kendrick added a two-run homer in the fourth.
"I didn't even know anything about that streak. We were just trying to put runs on the board," Kendrick said. "They've got a good staff. They've got guys that go out and pound the strike zone and get outs when they need to. They also play in a division where they've got to have great pitching. It seems like every time we face them they come out and throw well against us."
Jose Molina, who spent seven seasons as a backup catcher with the Angels and was a member of their only World Series championship club in 2002, hit his fourth homer in the eighth against Jason Isringhausen.