Burly right-hander Jeff Niemann can complete a four-game sweep and stay unbeaten for his career against Seattle today when the Tampa Bay Rays host the Mariners in the finale of their series at Tropicana Field.
The Rays, who lead the American League's East Division and share the league's best record with Texas, made it three in a row over the Mariners on Wednesday when Luke Scott's go-ahead home run in the sixth inning yielded a 5-4 win.
James Shields (5-0) struck out 11 and became the first pitcher to reach five wins despite allowing four runs on five hits and four walks in six innings.
Sean Rodriguez hit a two-run home run for the Rays, who have won 10 of their last 11.
Kyle Seager had two homers and drove in four runs for Seattle, which has dropped five straight.
Niemann, who stands 6-foot-9 and weighs in at 260 pounds, is unbeaten in six lifetime starts against Seattle - winning four decisions and allowing just 12 earned runs and striking out 34 batters in 37 2/3 innings of work.
He previously faced them on July 29 of last year and emerged with an 8-0 victory after tossing 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball with a season-high 11 strikeouts.
It was the fourth in a stretch of seven straight victories for the Houston- born Niemann, who reached double-digit victories for the third consecutive season as a full-time member of the Rays' starting rotation.
He's managed just one win in four starts thus far in 2012, not lasting beyond 5 2/3 innings in any outing while combining to allow 15 hits and nine earned runs in 21 innings.
The lone victory was at home on April 22 against Minnesota, while the losses have come at Detroit, Toronto and Texas, respectively.
Thirty-seven-year-old Kevin Millwood gets the call for Seattle for the fifth time this season after signing a one-year, $1 million deal on Jan. 24.
The North Carolina native spent minor-league time with the New York Yankees and Boston last season and pitched nine major-league games with Colorado, going 4-3 with a 3.98 earned run average in 54 1/3 innings.
He opened 2012 with consecutive no-decisions against Texas and Cleveland, then dropped decisions to Chicago and Toronto while allowing 15 hits and eight runs in 12 1/3 innings.
In eight starts against Tampa Bay, he's 3-3 with a 5.03 ERA in 48 1/3 innings.
The Rays won six of their 10 matchups with the Mariners last season.