Lou Piniella probably won’t admit it, but the former Seattle manager has to be hoping his Tampa Bay Devil Rays can win the season series from the Mariners when the teams complete a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Piniella, who managed the Mariners to three division titles and four playoff appearances during his 10-year stint in Seattle, signed a four-year deal with the hapless Devil Rays last October after Tampa Bay sent outfielder Randy Winn to the Mariners as compensation.
It’s been a long, trying season for Piniella, who led the Mariners to an AL-record 116 wins in 2001 and at least 90 in each of his final three seasons in Seattle.
Mired in last place in the AL East, the Devil Rays are threatening to lose 100 games for the third straight season—something that hasn’t been done since the expansion Toronto Blue Jays achieved the dubious feat from 1977-79.
The Devil Rays have won just three of their last 13 games, but ironically, all three have been against the Mariners, who are in the midst of a tight race for the both the AL West title and the wild card.
After pounding their way to a 10-8, 11-inning win in Tuesday’s series opener, the Mariners were baffled by rookie right-hander Doug Waechter on Wednesday.
Waechter became the first Tampa Bay pitcher to throw a shutout in his first major league start, leading the Devil Rays to a 7-0 win.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Piniella said. “The kid went after them. Just outstanding. You couldn’t have scripted this thing better.”
The victory evened the season series between the teams at 4-4, giving the Devil Rays a chance to deliver a significant win for Piniella on Thursday.
Despite Wednesday’s loss, the Mariners remained two games behind Oakland in the West. The A’s suffered a 7-0 loss to Baltimore.
However, Boston beat the Chicago White Sox 5-4 to pull into a tie with the Mariners for the wild card.
STANDINGS: Mariners - 2nd place, 2 GB, AL West. Devil Rays - 5th place, 29 GB, AL East.
MARINERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ryan Franklin (9-11, 3.86 ERA). Franklin surrendered two more homers Friday against Baltimore, upping his major league-leading total to 32. However, the right-hander also surrendered just two runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings in the Mariners’ 3-2 win. Franklin is making his first career start against the Devil Rays. In three relief appearance against Tampa Bay, he has surrendered two runs and six hits over 4 1-3 innings.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Jorge Sosa (4-9, 4.52 ERA). Sosa is winless in his last five outings, but did pitch well in Tampa Bay’s come-from-behind 3-2 win at Seattle last Thursday. The second-year right-hander allowed one run and five hits over six solid innings, striking out four and walking two. Sosa has yielded just one earned run in each of his last three starts, but has not earned a decision in any of those outings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mariners - Ichiro Suzuki, .316 avg., 99 runs and 30 SBs; Bret Boone, 32 HRs and 104 RBIs. Devil Rays - Aubrey Huff, .318 avg., 28 HRs and 91 RBIs; Rocco Baldelli, 76 runs; Carl Crawford, 45 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 4-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Mariners - OF Suzuki went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, and has just three hits in his last 35 at-bats. … RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa, the Mariners’ closer, was not available Wednesday after throwing 50 pitches over two innings en route to picking up the win in Tuesday’s 11-inning victory. … RHP Franklin is 4-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 12 starts on the road this year. Devil Rays - OF Huff, who is riding a 12-game hitting streak, has eight homers during that stretch. … RHP Sosa is 2-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 16 appearances, including seven starts, at Tropicana Field this year. … The current Devil Rays are a combined 2-for-11 against RHP Franklin with one extra-base hit, a double by C Javier Valentin.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mariners - 38-29 on the road; Devil Rays - 30-38 at home.
INJURIES: Mariners - INF Greg Colbrunn (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Rett Johnson (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Thornton (elbow), 60-day DL. Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 60-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL.