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Tampa Bay at Seattle

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Tampa Bay (21-7) «0201300208120
Seattle (11-17)000000000040

Niemann leads shutout of Mariners; Rays improve to 12-1 on road

CBSSports.com wire reports
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SEATTLE -- Jeff Niemann is just trying to keep up with the rest of the Tampa Bay rotation.

Niemann pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning, Carl Crawford finished a triple short of the cycle and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Seattle Mariners 8-0 on Thursday night for a three-game sweep.

Niemann (2-0) overcame a strange loss of control in the second inning, throwing 11 consecutive balls when his fastball went wild, to help keep Tampa Bay rolling to the best start in club history. Tampa Bay won its fourth straight and ninth in 11 games and is 12-1 on the road.

Niemann's seven shutout innings lowered his ERA to 2.23. He's one of four Rays pitchers among the top 12 in ERA in the AL.

"It's awesome to be a part of, awesome to be around," he said. It's pretty impressive what is going on."

But he couldn't find the strike zone for 2½ batters in the second, only to recover and strike out Seattle's Rob Johnson with the bases loaded to end Seattle's only threat.

"If you start thinking too much you start digging yourself a really deep hole," Niemann said. "You try and address it the best way you can, but at the same time you still have to go out there and throw. It's a fine line."

Aside from that befuddling inning, Niemann was dominant. From the third inning on, the big right-hander set down 14 of the final 17 batters. Niemann pitched into the seventh for the fifth consecutive start and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season. He struck out six and walked two.

Joaquin Benoit worked the eighth and Andy Sonnanstine the ninth to complete the four-hitter.

"Right now, we're going to ride this as long as we can," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Obviously, the starting pitching has been fabulous. ... I believe we can play to this standard for a long time."

The Mariners troubling homestand continued. They have lost six straight and before Thursday night's game placed starting left fielder Milton Bradley on the restricted list while he deals with personal issues.

Bradley is unavailable to the Mariners for at least five days and likely much longer.

The problem for the rest of the Mariners is an offense that has scored nine runs in six games, punctuated by the second shutout in a week.

"It's a tough stretch," Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It's is hard to watch the same game. The fans are getting tired of it, we are getting tired of it here, but we were continue to believe in what we can do and continue to work.

Crawford hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Seattle reliever Ian Snell, after singling in the fifth and doubling in the sixth. Willy Aybar also had two hits and two RBI.

Ben Zobrist laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Jason Barlett, who doubled to open the fifth. Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an RBI double, and B.J. Upton had an RBI double and two runs scored.

"We don't look at our record too much because then the propensity would be to enjoy it too much," Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena said. "We've been really good that if we win, then we let it go."

Seattle starter Ryan Rowland-Smith (0-2) failed to make it through the fifth, battered for six runs and seven hits in his shortest outing of the season. He has given up at least five earned runs in consecutive starts.

Notes

  • The Rays are one of only four teams since 1961 to start 12-1 or better on the road.
  • Injured Mariners LHP Erik Bedard threw a pain-free bullpen session on Wednesday and is expected to throw a simulated game either Monday or Tuesday. Bedard is recovering from left shoulder surgery.
  • Snell threw 3 1/3 innings of relief, his first appearance out of the bullpen since Aug. 12, 2005, while with Pittsburgh.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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It's easy for the Rays to celebrate. Tampa is off to their best start ever thanks in part to a sweep of the M's. (AP)
It's easy for the Rays to celebrate. Tampa is off to their best start ever thanks in part to a sweep of the M's. (AP)

Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

J. Niemann
IP 7.0
H 4
ER 0
BB 2
K 6
Tampa Bay

C. Crawford
AB 5
R 2
H 3
HR 1
RBI 2
 
Tampa Bay Rays
Jason Bartlett, SS5110012 .261
Carl Crawford, LF5232000 .343
Ben Zobrist, 2B-RF4021111 .259
Evan Longoria, 3B5111002 .349
Carlos Pena, 1B3110212 .204
B.J. Upton, CF4211112 .240
Willy Aybar, DH5022003 .306
John Jaso, C4100115 .313
Gabe Kapler, RF2011001 .229
   a- Reid Brignac, PH-2B2000001 .273
Totals39812855  
a-lined out for Kapler in the 6th
Batting
2B - Jason Bartlett (7, Rowland-Smith), Carl Crawford (11, Snell), Evan Longoria (9, Rowland-Smith), Carlos Pena (4, Kelley), B.J. Upton (7, Rowland-Smith), Willy Aybar (2, Rowland-Smith)
HR - Carl Crawford (3, Snell)
RBI - Carl Crawford 2 (15), Ben Zobrist (13), Evan Longoria (23), B.J. Upton (17), Willy Aybar 2 (6), Gabe Kapler (6)
2-OUT RBI - Carl Crawford 2 (6), Willy Aybar (3), Gabe Kapler (3)
SB - Gabe Kapler (1, 2nd base off Rowland-Smith/Johnson)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
DP - Bartlett-Zobrist-Pena
Tampa Bay Rays
Jeff Niemann (W,2-0) 7400260 2.23
Joaquin Benoit 1000020 0.00
Andy Sonnanstine 1000010 2.70
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 99-58, Joaquin Benoit 17-12, Andy Sonnanstine 17-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 8-6
Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 26, Joaquin Benoit 3, Andy Sonnanstine 3
Seattle Mariners
Ichiro Suzuki, RF4010000 .319
Chone Figgins, 2B4010011 .204
Casey Kotchman, 1B4000010 .211
Franklin Gutierrez, CF4000021 .330
Ken Griffey Jr., DH4010010 .214
Jose Lopez, 3B3010011 .219
Ryan Langerhans, LF2000110 .167
Josh Wilson, SS2000100 .000
Rob Johnson, C3000023 .143
Totals3004029  
Seattle Mariners
Ryan Rowland-Smith (L,0-2) 4.1766320 6.21
Ian Snell 3.1322221 4.76
Shawn Kelley 1.1200010 2.16
WP - Ian Snell (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Ryan Rowland-Smith 90-58, Ian Snell 60-36, Shawn Kelley 24-17
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ryan Rowland-Smith 7-4, Ian Snell 4-4
Batters Faced - Ryan Rowland-Smith 23, Ian Snell 15, Shawn Kelley 6
Game Information
Attendance - 17617
Game Time - 2:47
Temperature - 56
Umpires - Home - Doug Eddings, First Base - Dana DeMuth, Second Base - Kerwin Danley, Third Base - C.B. Bucknor