|Tampa Bay (18-8) «||0||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||x||4||7||1|
With their star third baseman sidelined for up to two months with a tear in his hamstring, the AL East leaders completed a four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners on Thursday and own the best record in the major leagues at 18-8.
"We talked about getting off to a good start, and we got off the good start we needed," manager Joe Maddon said after a 4-3 victory over the Mariners extended Tampa Bay's winning streak to six. The Rays have won 11 of their past 12 games and hold the best mark in baseball for the first time since Sept. 28, 2010.
"Baltimore is playing well. Toronto is playing very good. The Yankees are fine, and the Red Sox are going to keep getting better," Maddon added. "We needed to get off to a good start to really make our mark in the division."
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Longoria left after the third inning of the series opener. Elliot Johnson replaced him and delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning. Luke Scott and Sean Rodriguez had big hits during the series, and Thursday it was Jeff Keppinger and Desmond Jennings turns to step up.
Keppinger hit a two-run homer and added a two-run triple to back right-hander Jeff Niemann (2-3), who allowed three runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. The bullpen didn't allow a hit the rest of the way.
"It was a great team effort," Maddon said. "Everybody played, everyone participated, everybody has a piece of the ownership right now, and I like that."
The Mariners concluded 10-day, 10-game road trip with a season-high six-game losing streak. The skid came right after a four-game winning streak that included a sweep of Detroit to begin their three-city trip. Tampa Bay won three of the four games at Tropicana Field by one run, and took the other by two.
Tough ballgames, tough losses," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "We're just not quite doing enough to finish off innings to take that lead back, especially on the road."
The Rays scored all of their runs in the second inning, with Keppinger and Jennings delivering the biggest hits of the day off Kevin Millwood (0-3).
The inconsistent Mariners struck out eight times, hiking their total in the series to 46. They have been held to 12 runs during their skid.
Millwood retired the first two batters of the second inning before giving up an infield single to Will Rhymes and Keppinger's second home run of the season. The next two batters, Chris Gimenez and Rodriguez, singled and scored when Jennings tripled to right-center field for a 4-2 lead.
But Seattle continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, stranding the potential at second base in the fifth and sixth innings. John Jaso doubled leading off the sixth, but Niemann struck out Mike Carp and Justin Smoak.
Niemann departed after throwing 107 pitches. McGee fanned Michael Saunders to end the threat.
|Jeff Keppinger unloads for a homer in the second as the Rays score all four of their runs in the inning. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
|Chone Figgins, LF||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.189|
|Dustin Ackley, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.231|
|Ichiro Suzuki, RF||4||0||1||1||0||0||1||.310|
|Kyle Seager, 3B||3||1||0||0||1||2||1||.289|
|John Jaso, C||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.318|
|Mike Carp, DH||4||0||1||1||0||1||1||.100|
|Justin Smoak, 1B||3||0||1||1||1||1||2||.189|
|Michael Saunders, CF||4||0||0||0||0||2||5||.229|
|Munenori Kawasaki, SS||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.214|
|2B - Dustin Ackley (7, Niemann), Ichiro Suzuki (6, Niemann), John Jaso 2 (3, Niemann, Niemann)|
|RBI - Ichiro Suzuki (10), Mike Carp (1), Justin Smoak (10)|
|2-OUT RBI - Ichiro Suzuki (4)|
|SB - Dustin Ackley (2, 2nd base off Niemann/Gimenez)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|Kevin Millwood (L,0-3)||6.1||7||4||4||2||4||1||5.34|
|Pitches-Strikes - Kevin Millwood 105-64, Lucas Luetge 27-16|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kevin Millwood 5-10, Lucas Luetge 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Kevin Millwood 28, Lucas Luetge 6|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Desmond Jennings, CF||4||0||1||2||0||0||0||.257|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||3||0||0||0||1||1||0||.261|
|Matt Joyce, RF-LF||3||0||0||0||1||0||2||.282|
|Luke Scott, DH||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.274|
|Brandon Allen, LF||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.056|
|Ben Zobrist, RF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.198|
|Will Rhymes, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||0||1||.375|
|Jeff Keppinger, 3B||2||1||2||2||1||0||0||.298|
|Elliot Johnson, PR-SS||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.143|
|Chris Gimenez, C||3||1||1||0||0||1||3||.258|
|Sean Rodriguez, SS-3B||3||1||1||0||0||1||1||.194|
|3B - Desmond Jennings (2, Millwood)|
|HR - Jeff Keppinger (2, Millwood)|
|RBI - Desmond Jennings 2 (11), Jeff Keppinger 2 (6)|
|2-OUT RBI - Desmond Jennings 2 (6), Jeff Keppinger 2 (4)|
|SB - Matt Joyce (1, 2nd base off Luetge/Jaso), Elliot Johnson (3, 2nd base off Millwood/Jaso)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - Rhymes-S. Rodriguez-Pena, Rhymes-Johnson-Pena|
|E - Sean Rodriguez (2, Misplayed grounder)|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Jeff Niemann (W,2-3)||5.2||7||3||3||2||5||0||4.05|
|Jake McGee (H,2)||2.1||0||0||0||0||3||0||2.35|
|Fernando Rodney (S,9)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.73|
|WP - Jake McGee (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 107-66, Jake McGee 29-19, Fernando Rodney 14-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 5-6, Jake McGee 3-1, Fernando Rodney 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 25, Jake McGee 7, Fernando Rodney 3|
|Attendance - 11575|
|Game Time - 2:57|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Derryl Cousins, First Base - Al Porter, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Jim Wolf|