MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—The Seattle Mariners played like a playoff contender during their recent homestand. Their problems on the road, however, are an indication of how far they actually are from challenging for a postseason spot.
Coming off a successful homestand against some of the AL’s top teams, the Mariners (63-70) look to end an 11-game losing streak on the road when they open a three-game series against the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays (53-81) on Friday.
Seattle went 0-11 on a road trip from Aug. 10-20, its first winless trip of 11 or more games in the franchise’s 30-year history. The Mariners’ longest road losing streak is 15 games, set from June 22-July 28, 2004.
Seattle, which is 14 games behind first-place Oakland in the AL West, rebounded from the trip to go 7-2 on its recently completed homestand. The Mariners took two of three games from the first-place New York Yankees before sweeping Boston.
They then won the first two games of a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels before having a season-best six-game winning streak end with a 5-3 loss on Wednesday.
“This shows we’re not giving up on the season,” Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson said. “We’re still trying to win games. We realize we’re quite a few games out of it, but we’re still trying to get to .500. Over .500.”
Seattle will start Gil Meche (9-8, 4.56 ERA), who beat the Devil Rays for the first time in five career starts on May 8. He was 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA against them before allowing three runs and six hits in seven innings of a 6-3 victory.
The right-hander gave up two runs and five hits while striking out seven in seven innings, but did not receive a decision in Seattle’s 4-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday. It was his first start since Aug. 16 because of tendinitis in his right forearm.
Meche went 0-4 with a 9.58 ERA in his previous five starts.
“Maybe he should get a couple of days off every once in a while,” Seattle reliever J.J. Putz said. “He had great stuff. He was able to get ahead, his curveball was sharp and his fastball was electric. It was good to see.”
Mariners reliever Rafael Soriano, who sustained a mild concussion after being hit in the head by a line drive against the Angels on Tuesday, was released from a Seattle hospital Wednesday. Doctors plan to re-examine him in 10 to 14 days and the team has set no timetable for his return, but manager Mike Hargrove seems to think Soriano will be back this season.
James Shields (6-6, 4.59) will take the mound Friday for the Devil Rays. The rookie right-hander gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings, but did not receive a decision in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 loss at Baltimore on Saturday.
Shields, 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in his last four starts, was a hard-luck loser in his first career outing against the Mariners on Aug. 9 when he gave up two runs and five hits while striking out six in a 2-0 defeat.
Delmon Young led off the 10th with his fourth hit of the game and is 8-for-11 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs in three games since he was brought up by Tampa Bay this week. Young, who was suspended 50 games in the minor leagues this year for flipping a bat and hitting an umpire, was moved up to second in the batting order after hitting eighth and seventh the previous two contests.
The Mariners are 5-1 against the Devil Rays this season, with all six games being played at Safeco Field. Seattle is 24-13 all-time in Tampa Bay.