Seattle (20-21) at Tampa Bay (18-26)

Partly Cloudy Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 74° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed May 23, 2007
  • TV: KSTW, FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Three hits and two RBIs in two games is normally nothing to get excited about for a top slugger, but the way this season has gone for Richie Sexson, any positive sign is welcome.

Sexson and the Seattle Mariners look to get back to .500 on Wednesday night as they continue a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

Sexson has been the one of the game’s best power hitters during his 11-year career, hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs six times. This season, however, he is hitting .175 and has homered just once in the last 18 games.

Sexson was benched for two games over the weekend as Seattle manager Mike Hargrove tried to help him snap an 0-for-15 slump. The move appears to have paid off, with Sexson going 3-for-7 with two RBIs in the last two contests - a loss to Cleveland on Monday and a 5-2 victory Tuesday over the Devil Rays.

His two-run single in the fifth inning tied the score and Yuniesky Betancourt snapped the deadlock in the sixth with a solo homer. Sexson’s hit also ended Seattle’s 0-for-15 drought with runners in scoring position.

Since beating the Angels on May 15, the Mariners have lost five of seven, going 7-for-47 (.149) in RBI situations in those five defeats.

“That’s all we’ve heard for the last two or three days, not hitting with men in scoring position,” Hargrove said. “Richie picked us up. Picked us up big time. It was huge.”

Kenji Johjima added a solo home run for the Mariners (20-21), who are 1-1 on a 10-game, 10-day, 6,273-mile road trip.

Seattle has won nine of 12 against Tampa Bay (18-26), which has lost four straight overall after a season-high four-game win streak.

The Mariners hope outfielder Raul Ibanez can return from back spasms Wednesday. Ibanez, who has missed the last four games, is batting a team-high .347 with runners in scoring position.

Miguel Batista (3-4, 6.15 ERA) hopes to rebound from consecutive losses when he takes the mound for Seattle. The right-hander had a reasonably effective outing Friday in an 8-1 loss to San Diego, allowing four runs - one earned - and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.

Despite his lofty season ERA, Batista has held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer in four of his past five starts.

He is 4-4 with a 3.77 ERA in 20 career appearances, including four starts, against the Devil Rays.

Tampa Bay, which has been outscored 24-9 during its four-game skid, has dropped eight games under .500, matching its low point of the season.

Scott Kazmir and James Shields have given the Devil Rays a strong top of the rotation, but the other three starters - Jae Seo, Edwin Jackson and Casey Fossum - all have ERAs over seven.

Fossum (3-3, 7.80) has been particularly bad, allowing six runs or more in four of his last five starts. His ERA is tied with Seo for the highest among AL qualifiers.

The left-hander earned the win against Texas on May 16, despite giving up six runs and nine hits in five innings. He is 0-2 with a 2.14 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Batista Col vs. C. Fossum NYM
16-11 Record 5-8
4.29 ERA 7.70
133 K 53
85 BB 27
1.52 WHIP 1.79

Scoreboard

Wednesday, May 23