Seattle at Tampa Bay

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Seattle (14-22)100100000260
Tampa Bay (25-11) 000000021361

Aybar's drive in ninth finishes Rays' late comeback

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays retained the best record in baseball with another stellar pitching performance.

Bailing out a suddenly sputtering offense, James Shields pitched eight strong innings to keep the AL East leaders within striking distance of the Seattle Mariners in a 3-2 victory Saturday.

The Rays wiped out a 2-0 deficit in the eighth. They won it when Willy Aybar led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer to right-center that enabled Tampa Bay to avoid falling into a tie with the New York Yankees for the top record in the majors.

"That's how you win championships. You've got to win the 3-2, 2-1, 4-3 games. You've got to outpitch them. You've got to out-defense them on certain nights," manager Joe Maddon said after his team improved to 6-5 in one-run games.

"We're slumbering right now, but they're going to be fine. In the meantime, it's wonderful that we can win with pitching and defense."

Rafael Soriano (2-0) pitched a scoreless ninth in relief of Shields to get the win.

Reid Brignac's pinch-hit RBI single off reliever Brandon League trimmed Tampa Bay's deficit to 2-1, and Jason Bartlett's sacrifice left the Rays with runners at second and third with one out.

Carl Crawford was walked intentionally to load the bases before Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly tied it at 2.

Aybar, in the lineup with struggling slugger Pat Burrell designated for assignment earlier in the day, homered off Jesus Colome (0-1) on a 3-2 pitch.

"That's not something you want to see happen to anybody, obviously, because we're all teammates and we get along," Aybar said through a translator. "It's a front-office decision and you've just got to take it and go with it."

Seattle starter Jason Vargas limited the Rays to fifth-inning singles by Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena before B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro singled to begin the eighth.

Mike Sweeney homered for the third straight game, and Ichiro Suzuki had two more hits for Seattle to match a career best with seven consecutive multihit games.

"It is about winning and losing ballgames, but these guys came out and played an awfully good team and battled until the end," said Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, noting his team hurt itself with squandered opportunities on offense.

Seattle was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

"It's the little things that are going to affect whether we win ballgames," Wakamatsu added. "When you leave no wiggle room for your bullpen, it comes back to haunt you."

Shields allowed two runs and six hits over eight innings in his first start since being on the losing side of the perfect game by Oakland's Dallas Braden last Sunday.

Sweeney homered leading off the third against Shields, who struck out 10 and walked none. Shields also hurt his cause in the first with an errant pickoff throw and a wild pitch that enabled Chone Figgins, who had doubled, to reach third and score the game's first run.

The Rays were second in the majors in runs entering Saturday, but they've sputtered offensively during an eight-game stretch following a sweep of the Mariners in Seattle from May 4-6.

Before the game, the Rays designated Burrell for assignment and purchased the contract of former Texas infielder Hank Blalock from Triple-A Durham, where the two-time All-Star hit .349 in 26 games.

Vargas allowed two runs and four hits in seven-plus innings.

"The pitching was pretty impressive," Wakamatsu said. "I don't blame the bullpen as much as I do being able to score runs when we have to."

Notes

  • The Mariners have seven homers in the past three games after hitting 13 in the first 33.
  • Burrell was batting .202 with two homers and 13 RBI in 24 games. He was 2 for 25 in May with no extra-base hits or RBI.
  • Seattle LHP Erik Bedard, returning from shoulder surgery, might go to the Mariners' complex in Arizona for part of his rehab program. He is not expected to rejoin the rotation until next month.
  • Rays 3B coach Tom Foley was back after missing Friday's series opener to attend to a family matter.
 
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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Willy Aybar (left) ends the afternoon on a good note for Tampa Bay with his walk-off shot.  (US Presswire)
Willy Aybar (left) ends the afternoon on a good note for Tampa Bay with his walk-off shot. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

W. Aybar
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
Seattle

M. Sweeney
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Seattle Mariners
Ichiro Suzuki , RF4020010.360
Chone Figgins , 2B4110013.188
Franklin Gutierrez , CF3000111.302
Mike Sweeney , DH4121001.244
Jose Lopez , 3B4000003.212
Matt Tuiasosopo , 1B4000023.143
Josh Wilson , SS3000020.194
Adam Moore , C3010010.193
  Rob Johnson , PR0000000.158
Michael Saunders , LF3000021.280
Totals3226111012
BATTING
2B - C Figgins (6)
HR - M Sweeney (3)
RBI - M Sweeney (6)
BASERUNNING
SB - F Gutierrez (4)
Seattle Mariners
Jason M. Vargas 7.04222202.93
Brandon League 0.11001003.92
Sean White 0.20000003.38
Jesus Colome (L,0-1) 0.01110014.97
Tampa Bay Rays
Jason Bartlett , SS3000011.243
Carl Crawford , LF3000111.309
Ben Zobrist , RF3001000.269
Evan Longoria , 3B4010002.324
Willy Aybar , DH3111101.259
Carlos Pena , 1B3010001.180
B.J. Upton , CF3110001.214
Dioner Navarro , C2010100.182
  Sean Rodriguez , PR0100000.222
Gabe Kapler , RF2000001.224
a-Reid Brignac , PH-2B1011000.279
Totals27363328
a-Singled for G Kapler in the 8th.
BATTING
HR - W Aybar (4)
RBI - B Zobrist (16); W Aybar (10); R Brignac (15)
SF - B Zobrist (2)
S - J Bartlett (1)
BASERUNNING
SB - B Upton (9)
Tampa Bay Rays
James Shields 8.062201013.00
Rafael Soriano (W,2-0) 1.00001001.80
Game Information
Attendance - 23627
Game Time - 2:39
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Laz Diaz, First Base - John Hirschbeck, Second Base - James Hoye, Third Base - Wally Bell