SEATTLE -- Pressed into early duty yet again, the Seattle Mariners bullpen responded much as it has for the last month.
Still, they wouldn't mind their starters lasting a few more innings.
Four Seattle relievers combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings, and Raul Ibanez's 23rd homer propelled the Mariners to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Monday night.
"We had the right people in there. That's the whole thing," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "The other side of that coin is we have had to use those people a lot the last few days. You don't know how deep they can go and you don't want to take them beyond that and risk injury."
Seattle's bullpen worked 12 1/3 combined innings during a weekend series against Oakland, where the A's swept and left the Mariners 6½ games back in the AL West.
The clutch pitching of Julio Mateo, George Sherrill, Rafael Soriano and J.J. Putz on Monday night helped ease the bad memories of the weekend sweep.
"It shows a lot of character in this team," Putz said. "It would have been really easy to feel sorry for ourselves and hang our head."
Ibanez's homer, a two-run shot in the fifth inning put Seattle ahead for good. Ibanez lined a 0-1 fastball from Tampa Bay starter Tim Corcoran (4-3) into the seats in right field, his first homer since July 29 in Cleveland.
Ibanez is now one shy of his career-high of 24 homers, set in 2002 with Kansas City.
Adrian Beltre also hit a two-run homer in the first for Seattle, his 12th of the season and third in the last five games. Jose Lopez doubled twice, singled and scored on both home runs.
From there, the Mariners turned it over to their relievers, who have allowed just 17 earned runs since July 5.
Mateo was first, pitching 1 1/3 innings in relief of starter Jamie Moyer, who failed to get out of the fifth inning. With two on and one out in the fifth, Mateo induced fly outs by B.J. Upton and Jonny Gomes to escape the jam.
In the sixth, Damon Hollins walked and Carl Crawford singled with one out. After Jorge Cantu popped out to first, Sherrill, a left-hander, relieved Mateo and retired Travis Lee on a groundout.
Sherrill and the right-handed Soriano combined for a perfect seventh, but Tampa Bay put runners on first and third with two outs in the eighth. Putz, Seattle's closer, entered and struck out Cantu on a 3-2 pitch.
Hargrove isn't leery of going to Putz in the eighth, but doesn't want to make it a habit.
"I'm comfortable doing it rarely," Hargrove said. "I don't want to do it often, because I think you pay the price at the end of the season."
Putz, who threw an inning on Sunday and admitted he was laboring in the ninth, allowed a lead off single to Lee, who then stole second with one out. Dioner Navarro walked on a 3-2 pitch and both runners advanced on Upton's broken bat groundout to short.
Putz then walked Gomes to load the bases before retiring Ben Zorbrist on a flyout for his 24th save in 28 chances.
"They did what they're supposed to do," Crawford said. "They kept the game in the context of where they could get the win."
Crawford tied a career-high with four hits, including a triple and RBI single. Greg Norton hit an RBI single in the third and Zorbrist had an RBI double in the fourth when Tampa Bay scored twice to take a 4-3 lead. But the Devil Rays left a 14 runners on base.
"It's never a good number when it says 14, but I thought we had some good at-bats in some tight situations," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
Moyer lasted only 4 1/3 innings, matching his shortest outing of the season on July 21 when he gave up five homers in a 9-4 loss to Boston. The soft-throwing lefty allowed four runs, eight hits and struck out four. He has just one win since June 24.
Corcoran lost his third consecutive decision, allowing seven hits and striking out four in five innings.
"I just let them back in the game ... three different times," Corcoran said. "That's frustrating."
Seattle improved to 27-6 when hitting at least two homers. ... Maddon said All-Star pitcher Scott Kazmir will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday and start Friday in Oakland. Kazmir has not pitched since July 23 with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. ... Tampa Bay RHP Dan Miceli was reinstated from the 60-day DL and pitched a perfect sixth inning. Miceli hadn't pitched since May 5 with a right shoulder injury.