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Pineda heads to hill for M's in finale at the Trop

Rookie hurler Michael Pineda tries to reach double-digit game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Just 22 years old from the Dominican Republic, Pineda has his work cut out for him today as he tries to help the Mariners snap a four-game slide. However, the right-hander, who started out 6-2 by the third week of May, has won just three times since for a slumping club which is 18 games under .500 and 18 1/2 games out of contention in the American League West.

On Saturday the Mariners were held scoreless for the fifth time since the All- Star break and the 11th time overall this season as they suffered an 8-0 setback versus the Rays.

Keeping Seattle from crossing the plate was rookie Jeremy Hellickson who gave up six hits, fanned five and issued only one walk over eight innings of action as he collected his 11th win of the campaign. Joel Peralta tossed the ninth for the Rays to preserve the victory, their fourth in a row.

"He (Hellickson) pitched better tonight than his last time out," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "His fastball command was a lot better."

Evan Longoria had a two-run homer and four RBI, while Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist collected three hits apiece for the Rays who remained in sight of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, now just eight games out of first place.

Charlie Furbush made the start for the Mariners and gave up five runs on eight hits in just three innings of work. He struck out two and walked one while being tagged with his fifth loss of the season.

Dustin Ackley and Adam Kennedy each delivered doubles for the visitors as they scattered a total of seven hits in the setback and lost for the fifth time in nine meetings with the Rays this season.

With a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians still remaining on this road trip, the Mariners are hoping that Pineda can get them over the hump today, especially since he defeated Tampa Bay in his only other appearance against the club back on July 30 in a 3-2 triumph.

More recently the he sized up Toronto on Monday, making it through just five innings as he allowed five runs, including three home runs, on six hits and four walks while striking out six in the 6-5 triumph, although Pineda failed to factor into the decision.

As for the Rays, they have James Shields penciled in as their starting pitcher today, even though he is 0-1 this season versus Seattle and 3-4 in his career in such matchups.

Shields, who needs 25 more strikeouts to reach 1,000 for his six-year career, is currently fourth in the AL in that department this season with 173 in 184 2/3 innings of action. The right-hander lost for the first time in August on Tuesday when he permitted three runs on as many hits, walked one and struck out six over the course of eight innings in a 3-1 loss to Boston on the road.

Seattle's inability to score runs this season has been somewhat epic, considering the team is last in the American League with a total of only 416 runs, a far cry from Minnesota which is second from the bottom in that category with just 490 runs. It should come as no surprise that the Mariners are also last in the league in overall hitting with a collective average of just .231 through 124 games.

As bad as Seattle has been at the plate, Tampa Bay is not much better, hitting only .245, although the team's slugging percentage of .400 is in the top half of the league's teams at the moment.