The Seattle Mariners will spend the rest of the month on a four-city, 12-game road trip that begins with the first of three Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays in a battle of two American League wild card hopefuls. Seattle is 1½ games out of the AL’s second wild card after taking the final two contests of a homestand that started with five consecutive losses.
“If you look at all the teams that are bunched in the American League right now, we all have our deficiencies,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told the Seattle Times. “There’s a reason nobody has been able to win eight or nine in a row. … Who can hang in there the longest? And then maybe somebody gets hot right there at the end.” The Rays have lost 10 of their last 13 contests to fall three games back of the second AL wild card after leaving 14 men on base in a 5-3 loss at Toronto on Thursday. Wilson Ramos has warmed up for Tampa Bay by going 6-for-12 with a pair of homers in the series against the Blue Jays. Erasmo Ramirez, who spent the last 2½ seasons with the Rays before being traded back to the Mariners, faces his old team in the series opener while rookie Austin Pruitt takes the mound for Tampa Bay.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ROOT Northwest (Seattle), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners RH Erasmo Ramirez (4-4, 4.73 ERA) vs. Rays RH Austin Pruitt (6-3, 5.07)
Ramirez comes in off his best of three starts since being acquired, when he limited the Los Angeles Angels to an unearned run and three hits over six innings in a no-decision Saturday. The 27-year-old Nicaraguan went 3-2 with a 6.05 ERA in eight starts with Tampa Bay before being dealt for reliever Steve Cishek. Adeiny Hechavarria is 2-for-3 against Ramirez, who was 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA versus the Rays during his first stint with Seattle.
Pruitt has been solid since joining the rotation, going 1-2 with a 3.47 ERA in four starts after holding Cleveland to three runs on four hits over six frames in a no-decision last time out. The 27-year-old Texan has struck out 18 and walked five in his last and allowed one home run total in the last three starts. Pruitt gave up three runs and four hits over 1 1/3 innings of relief at Seattle on June 4, including a two-run double by Jarrod Dyson.
1. Seattle DH-OF Nelson Cruz needs one homer for his fourth straight season with 30 and is 13-for-32 with five blasts and 12 RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak.
2. Tampa Bay CF Kevin Kiermaier (hip, back), out since June 8, could return to the lineup as early as Friday.
3. Mariners 3B Kyle Seager, who needs one RBI to reach 500 in his career, missed the last two games with a stomach virus and is considered day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Rays 5, Mariners 3