ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Seattle Mariners lost a tight game and catcher Miguel Olivo.
Elliot Johnson hit an RBI single with one out in the 12th inning, giving the Tampa Bay Rays a 3-2, comeback victory over the Mariners on Monday night.
Playing before a crowd of just 9,458 — smallest at Tropicana Field since September 2007 — the Rays twice rallied from one-run deficits before winning it against Brandon League (0-2), who failed to hold a 2-1 lead the Mariners took on Jesus Montero's homer in the 11th.
"We just have to get over the hump," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "These guys are fighting, they're competing. Not always executing. Not always getting the job done, but they're right there on the cusp. These are the type of ballgames that once these kids settle in, we'll find ways to win them."
Olivo left in the ninth with a right groin strain, that happened when the catcher picked up Upton's dribbler in front on the plate and threw awkwardly to first base before falling to the ground. He will be going on the disabled list with he called a significent injury.
"I tried to be aggressive, the way I am," Olivo said. "My spike got caught in the ground. I felt a pop in my groin."
Wedge plans to split the catching between Montero and John Jaso. Infielder-outfielder Mike Carp, sidelined by a sprained right shoulder, could be activated from the DL to take Olivo's roster spot.
J.P. Howell (1-0) pitched one scoreless inning for the win. Ben Zobrist drew a one-out walk in 12th, moved to second on Carlos Pena's single and scored when Johnson lined a 1-0 pitch to left field.
B.J. Upton's RBI single in the 11th wiped out the short-lived lead the Mariners took on Montero's homer off Wade Davis, the fourth of five Tampa Bay pitchers.
"I missed with location, especially to Upton," League said. "It was suppose to be a sinker in. That's the way you capitalize on those broken bats (hits)."
Olivo homered off Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson for Seattle's first run. Mariners starter Felix Hernandez struck out nine and walked four in eight innings while limiting Tampa Bay to Sean Rodriguez's second-inning RBI and five hits overall.
Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria left the game with what the Rays described as left knee soreness after sliding into second base on an attempted steal that end the third inning. The three-time All-Star remained on the ground before climbing to his feet and walking to the dugout without assistance.
Olivo hit his third homer of the year to give Seattle a 1-0 lead in the second. The Rays countered with Rodriguez's RBI single off Hernandez in the bottom half.
The Mariners caught a break in the fifth when Hernandez walked Zobrist and Pena hit a drive to deep center that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Zobrist would have easily scored from first base on the hit, however he was ordered back to third. The score remained 1-all after Johnson, Longoria's replacement, struck out to end the threat.
Hernandez pitched through another jam after walking Pena and Johnson with one out in the eighth, escaping when he fanned Luke Scott for the third time and got Matt Joyce to ground to second base.
"We got close and couldn't close it out," Hernandez said. "Tomorrow's another day .. that's the good about baseball."
The Mariners threatened in the ninth against Rays closer Fernando Rodney, getting the potential go-ahead run as far as third base with one out on singles by Kyle Seager and Olivo. Tampa Bay wiggled off the hook when Rodney fielded Michael Saunders safety squeeze bunt and threw pinch-runner Munenon Kawasaki out at the plate, then got Jaso to line out to center field.
"He did it on this own, and he shouldn't have," Wedge said. "I've talked to him already. I asked him his reasons for it, and he had good answers, but it's still not what we wanted to do right there. If we're go to do that right there, it's going to come from me. Everybody is going to be aware of it, so there's a level of awareness that allows Kawasaki to get home, quite frankly."
NOTES: Hernandez has 17 career no-decisions when allowing 1 run or less, and pitching at least seven innings. ... The Rays signed OF/DH Hideki Matsui to a minor league contract, and the two-time AL All-Star will report to extended spring training in Port Charlotte on Wednesday. ... The Mariners are struggling at the plate with runners in scoring position. They are 0 for their last 25 in those situations, including 0 for 3 on Monday night. ... Tampa Bay has a successful April despite not getting any wins from heralded rookie LHP Matt Moore (0-1, 4.68 ERA), who starts the second game of the series on Tuesday. The Mariners will counter with Hector Noesi (1-2, 8.83).