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News » Rays-Mariners Preview 2009-04-23

Rays-Mariners Preview 2009-04-23

Rays-Mariners Preview 2009-04-23
The Tampa Bay Rays appeared to be struggling, but perhaps they just have opponents fooled again. The unlikely defending AL champions, the Rays have started 2009 with the same record they had in 2008.

Tampa Bay seeks to win its first series since the season's opening week Thursday in the deciding contest of a three-game road set against the Seattle Mariners.

The Rays are 6-9 for the second straight season. Unlike last year's 97-win club, though, nobody is taking Tampa Bay lightly in the early going.

The Rays began this season by taking two of three games from the Boston Red Sox, but have failed to win a series since. They'll have another shot after Wednesday night's 9-3 victory snapped a three-game slide and helped them bounce back from a 4-2 defeat in Tuesday's series opener.

"We just need to settle in a little more. It's early, but we don't want to say, 'Oh, there's a lot of time left,'" said third baseman Evan Longoria, who went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs Wednesday to reach 100 career RBIs in his 135th game. "We need to start winning some games in a row, to get back over .500."

Carl Crawford had a season-high four hits for Tampa, which had scored a total of just 20 runs while dropping six of its previous seven. Longoria is batting .500 (13-for-26) with 10 RBIs in six Rays wins.

The reigning AL rookie of the year, who ranks among the early league leaders with a .415 average, five home runs and 16 RBIs, had one hit in three at-bats in his only meeting last season with Thursday's scheduled Mariners starter, Felix Hernandez (2-0, 4.26 ERA).

Hernandez has yielded four runs over 14 innings in his two wins this season, including three runs in six innings of last Friday's 6-3 victory over Detroit. He has given up just one run in four of five career starts against the Rays, but has only a 1-1 record to show for it.

Tampa Bay will counter with James Shields (2-1, 4.58), who has pitched through the seventh inning to win each of his last two starts. The right-hander surrendered five runs and seven hits - including two homers - last Friday, but lasted 7 1-3 innings and got credit for a 6-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Shields is 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA in four career starts versus Seattle - all quality outings.

After outscoring opponents 30-14 during a six-game win streak, the Mariners (9-6) have been outscored 29-16 in dropping four of their last six. Seattle has produced just 38 hits while giving up 61 in that stretch, including a season-high 15 for the Rays on Wednesday.

Seattle also committed two errors for the third time in four games.

"Our team revolves around pitching and defense, and tonight, we weren't very good at either," manager Don Wakamatsu told the Mariners' official Web site.

With Wednesday's victory, Tampa Bay improved to 6-2 in its last eight games at Safeco Field.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 23, 2009

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