The West-leading Mariners look to hand the struggling Rays their fourth straight loss Wednesday night when the teams continue their three-game set at Safeco Field.
A perennial cellar-dweller, Tampa Bay (5-9) had the worst record in the AL in 2007, then surprised the majors as its young and talented club won the pennant last season.
Seattle (9-5) has enjoyed success in the past, and is playing well early after going 61-101 for the AL’s worst mark a year ago.
“It’s exciting, we’re looking forward to coming to the park,” said Jarrod Washburn, who earned the victory in Seattle’s 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday. “Winning is fun.”
In his first season with Seattle, the 35-year-old Sweeney is batting .313.
Yuniesky Betancourt went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .326 for Seattle, which is 4-3 on a nine-game homestand, its first this season. Betancourt is 7-for-15 in his last four games against Tampa Bay, which had won its previous three games in Seattle.
The 30-year-old rookie right-hander and former women’s shoe salesman started the season as a reliever but moved into the rotation after Ryan Rowland-Smith was placed on the disabled list with triceps tendinitis.
“What impressed me was how efficient he was with his pitches, and his aggressiveness,” manager Don Wakamatsu told the Mariners’ official Web site. “He’s a tough kid who went through a lot to get here. He’s on a mission.”
He’s never faced the Rays, who counter with fellow rookie Jeff Niemann (0-2, 6.35)
After giving up five first-inning runs in his 2009 debut, Niemann didn’t pitch bad in his last start, allowing nine hits - including a two-run homer to Jermaine Dye - in six innings of a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
“Overall, it was a decent start, other than the one pitch,” said Niemann, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft.
The right-hander will make his first appearance against Seattle.
“If it happens in the middle of the season, you’re in a slump. And if you do it at the end of the year, you’re choking,” manager Joe Maddon told the Rays’ official Web site of the team’s rough start. “It just happens to be happening at the beginning, which makes it even more glaring.”
Longoria is batting .388 (19-for-49) with 13 RBIs, while Carlos Pena had his 12-game hitting streak snapped after going 0-for-3 on Tuesday.