ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The sputtering Seattle Mariners are hitting, just not scoring.
Michael Saunders had a solo homer and Jesus Montero went 4-for-4. However, a lack of production with runners in scoring position continued to haunt the team Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
“To be a consistent offensive club we have to finish innings off,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re just not doing that.”
A night after having 11 hits in a 3-2, 12-inning loss to the first-place Rays, the Mariners outhit Tampa Bay 9-3 but wound up extending their losing streak to four games because they went 0 for 5 with men in scoring position.
Seattle is 0-for-its-last-30 in such situations, and have been limited to scoring on three solo homers in the first two games of a four-game series at Tropicana Field.
The Mariners have struck out 24 times.
“Too many punch outs the last couple nights,” Wedge said. “We have to do a better job protecting, get in battle mode with two strikes, foul pitches off or fight through innings, and not leave it up to the umpire.”
Matt Joyce had two of Tampa Bay’s three hits, including a solo homer and RBI triple, to help the Rays win for the ninth time in 10 games.
Rookie Matt Moore (1-1) scattered seven hits over five innings to get the win, which kept Tampa Bay atop the AL East standings.
Joyce tripled off Mariners starter Hector Noesi (1-3), then scored on Luke Scott’s sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead in the first. Joyce’s team-leading sixth homer of the season made it 3-1 in the third.
The Rays didn’t have a hit after Joyce’s homer.
Burke Badenhop and Joel Peralta combined for three scoreless innings out of Tampa Bay’s bullpen. Fernando Rodney struck out the side in the ninth to earn his eighth save in eight opportunities.
The Rays played without third baseman Evan Longoria, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game with a partially torn left hamstring. The three-time All-Star, hurt on Monday night while attempting to steal second base, is expected to be sidelined four to eight weeks.
The good news for Tampa Bay was Moore finally got his first victory of the season. The hard-throwing 22-year-old left-hander, who started and won Tampa Bay’s postseason opener against Texas last October, walked one and struck out seven in the shortest of his five starts this year.
Saunders homered off Moore in the third. Seattle threatened in the fourth and fifth against the Rays starter, and again in the eighth when Montero doubled off Joel Peralta, but the Mariners failed to get a runner past second in each situation.
Noesi allowed three runs and three hits in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander, acquired along with Montero in an offseason trade that sent pitcher Michael Pineda to the New York Yankees, walked three and struck out one.
Wedge went to the bullpen after Noesi walked a pair of batters with two outs in the sixth.
“It was just a good time to get him out of there,” Wedge said. “We’re trying to help him build confidence and end on a good note. … I didn’t want to leave him out there one hitter too many. We’re just trying to continue to build with him.”
NOTES: Seattle RF Ichiro Suzuki singled off Moore in the fifth inning to tie Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith on the career hit list with 2,460. … To fill Longoria’s spot on the roster, the Rays purchased the contract of INF Will Rhymes from Triple-A Durham. To make room on the 40-man roster, RHP Kyle Farnsworth was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. … Tampa Bay prospect Tim Beckham, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, was suspended 50 games after a second violation of the minor league drug program.