The Tampa Bay Rays are gearing up for the stretch run and are in good position to make a postseason spot. With the longest current winning streak in the majors, the Rays will take their swings against the Seattle Mariners tonight in the opener of a three-game set from Safeco Field.
The Rays made it six straight wins with Sunday's 7-3 win in 10 innings against the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a three-game series, as Ryan Roberts highlighted a four-run top of the 10th inning with a two-run single and both J.P. Howell and Fernando Rodney closed the door in the bottom half. Rodney notched his 36th save.
"I do believe that's the sign of a good ball club," said Joe Maddon about his team winning in extra innings on the road.
Desmond Jennings and Jeff Keppinger both homered and starter James Shields permitted three runs, two of which were earned, in seven innings. Kyle Farnsworth picked up the victory with a scoreless ninth inning. Howell is riding a 22 2/3 scoreless innings streak.
Tampa Bay, which swept Toronto before taking all three meetings in Minnesota, moved within five games of the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East and leads the wild card with Baltimore.
Alex Cobb gets the nod for the Rays tonight and he has won back-to-back starts since losing three straight and five of six trips to the hill. Cobb has tossed seven innings of one-run ball in consecutive outings against Oakland and Toronto, and fanned seven batters in a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Cobb, a right-hander, is 6-8 in 14 starts with a 4.32 earned run average this season and lost to Seattle on July 21 in a 2-1 setback. He lasted two innings and gave up two runs. Cobb is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners.
Seattle just went 3-6 on its recent road trip and won the last two meetings of a three-game series with the LA Angels after losing five in a row.
Jason Vargas outdueled Jered Weaver for his 13th win (13-8) of the season, tossing 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball and striking out five batters. Tom Wilhelmsen got the final two outs of the ninth for his 16th save. Weaver allowed three runs in seven innings.
"I was able to get ahead of them early and not get careless," Vargas said. "I feel I have good enough stuff when I do get into trouble, I can get out of it."
Jesus Montero homered twice and knocked in three runs for the Mariners, who are last in the AL West and will begin a nine-game homestand Monday versus Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Cleveland. Seattle went 8-2 in its last homestand from July 23-Aug. 1.
The Mariners will hand the ball to Blake Beavan this evening and he has won his last four decisions. Beavan did not record a decision in last Tuesday's 8-7 loss at Baltimore and allowed four runs in six innings. The right-hander, who is 7-6 with a 5.12 earned run average in 17 starts in 2012, defeated Tampa Bay on July 22 with eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 triumph at Tropicana Field.
Beavan is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in two career starts against Tampa Bay.
The Rays are 5-2 against the Mariners this season and have won nine of the previous 11 meetings between the two ballclubs.