Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann(notes) and Seattle’s Ryan Rowland-Smith(notes) look to continue their strong seasons and further cement their spots in next year’s rotations as they square off Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
After winning the AL pennant last year, the Rays (77-73) were hoping to make a return trip to the postseason before an 11-game losing streak from Sept. 3-13 essentially ended that possibility. They’ve rebounded with wins in five of their last seven - including Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Toronto - but have already been eliminated from the postseason.
The Mariners (78-72) didn’t have such high expectations after losing 101 games in 2008, but they’ll be just as disappointed to fall short of the playoffs after a surprising season led by a pitching staff that boasts a league-best 3.91 ERA.
Seattle, which limited the high-scoring New York Yankees to five hits in Sunday’s 7-1 victory, has won four of five, yielding three runs or fewer in each victory.
The left-hander allowed one run and nine hits in eight innings of a 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, the third time in four starts he’s pitched eight innings.
“I’m awfully proud of him,” manager Don Wakamatsu told the Mariners’ official Web site. “He’s learning a knack to get deeper and deeper into ballgames. I’m awfully excited about him now and in the future.”
Rowland-Smith has recorded seven quality starts in his last eight outings, a stretch that began against Tampa Bay on Aug. 9. Rowland-Smith held the Rays to two runs in 6 2-3 innings of the 11-2 victory.
While Seattle’s rotation is built around Hernandez, the Rays are in need of a new ace after trading two-time All-Star Scott Kazmir(notes) to the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 28. It appears Niemann (12-6, 3.80) could be ready to step into that role.
Niemann leads the Rays in wins and complete games (two), and he’s one of the leading contenders to be named AL Rookie of the Year.
Although Niemann is enjoying a strong rookie season, the right-hander didn’t have much success at Baltimore last Tuesday.
After posting a 1.66 ERA without a decision in his previous three outings, Niemann was tagged for six runs and a career-high 11 hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-5 loss. It was his third defeat in his last 22 starts.
“(I’ll) go back to the drawing board the next couple of days,” Niemann told the Rays’ official Web site. “Just kind of take a look at things and get back to basics and get back out there.”
Niemann, who hasn’t lost consecutive starts since his first two outings of the season, earned his first victory of the year at Seattle on April 22. He is 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in two starts against the Mariners this season.
Tampa Bay has lost four of six against Seattle this year, all on the road.