The Tampa Bay Rays continue to roll on the road.
They’ll try to become the first team to begin 12-1 away from home in 26 years when they complete a three-game set against the struggling Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.
If the Rays complete the sweep, they would own the best road start since the 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers began 17-0. Tampa Bay’s 20-7 start is the best by an AL club since another that won the World Series, the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
The Rays are also trying for their first sweep at Safeco Field since Aug. 23-25, 2004.
Tampa Bay has used two solid eight-inning starts in this series. James Shields(notes) struck out 10 and allowed both runs in a 5-2 victory Tuesday and Matt Garza(notes) yielded two runs Wednesday. Rays starters have a major league-best 2.29 ERA on the road.
The Mariners (11-16) have scored nine runs during a five-game home skid - their longest since they lost seven straight July 19-August 2, 2008. Franklin Gutierrez’s(notes) two-run homer in the fourth inning Wednesday ended a seven-game drought without one.
Seattle also got bad news about a pair of starters.
Milton Bradley(notes), baseball’s self-described bad guy, has asked the club for help in dealing with what manager Don Wakamatsu says is “emotional stress” from personal issues. Bradley is batting .214 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 21 games, and was angry after being pulled early from Tuesday’s game.
“The fact he has stood up and asked for us to help him, I think, is an extremely important step for him as a young man,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann(notes) (1-0, 2.76) will try to add to those woes after limiting hitters to a .206 average in his first five outings. Niemann allowed one run over 7 1-3 innings in a 3-2 loss to Kansas City on Friday.
The right-hander went 1-0 with a 4.42 ERA in three starts against the Mariners - all last year.
There was speculation that the left-hander would be pulled from the rotation with Cliff Lee(notes) coming off the disabled list, but Rowland-Smith will remain a starter while Ian Snell(notes) has been sent to the bullpen.
Rowland-Smith is 1-0 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay.