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Cano's bat, glove spark Mariners over Rays

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG -- There are games like Monday that show why the Seattle Mariners made second baseman Robinson Cano a $240 million man.

Cano, Seattle's biggest offseason acquisition, came up huge in a 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Cano's two-run double off ace Rays lefty David Price in the third provided all the offense the Mariners would need, and his dazzling defensive play up the middle in the fourth preserved their fourth shutout in eight games.

"Just goes to show you how good this guy is," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Cano, who signed the 10-year deal in December.

While the Mariners (34-29) remain hot, winners of eight of nine to wrap up a 6-1 road trip, the Rays continue to struggle. Tampa Bay (24-41) has lost 13 of its last 14, with manager Joe Maddon even trying to bring in a medicine man before Monday's game to cure their ills.

"It's tough to fathom what's going on here right now," Price said. "These guys are trying. But it's just not going our way right now. We had a medicine man here today sprinkling water on people's chairs. I don't know, but maybe it's time for something crazy to go on in this clubhouse."

Price (4-6) allowed three runs in the third inning -- the 41st time this season the Rays gave up three runs in an inning -- which proved the difference. He settled down for a strong eight-inning outing, scattering seven hits and striking out 10.

The one pitch Price said he would want back was the 0-2 fastball to Cano in the third. After two singles, center fielder James Jones put down a perfect drag bunt, which turned into a single as no Ray was covering first, loading the bases. That brought up Cano, who sliced Price's offering into left field for the two-run double.

"That's a guy, that all his pitches are nasty," Cano said. "He's one of those guys you want to score early, because deeper he goes into the game, the better he gets. And you can see what happened after that."

The scuffling Rays offense continued to waste opportunities in front of 10,400 at home, getting shut out for the second straight game and ninth time this season, the most in the American League and second most in the majors.

Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez battled his way out of jams through a 4 2/3 shutout innings despite a career-high five walks. The Rays put two runners on in the third, fourth, and fifth, but failed to score.

"There are no excuses to be made," Maddon said. "I believe in our guys offensively. It's just not playing out right now."

In the fourth, the Rays had runners on first and second with no outs. But Ramirez struck out shortstop Yunel Escobar and catcher Jose Molina. Then, Cano made the game's best defensive play, racing up the middle to grab a slow chopper by Desmond Jennings, then throwing out the speedy center fielder at first. Maddon used his challenge, but the call was upheld via instant replay, ending the inning.

"Shows you why he's won all those Gold Gloves," McClendon said.

Said Cano: "I said, 'You know what, I might have a chance. Look what happened, he was out, and that was the end of the inning."

In the fifth, the Rays once again put two on with two outs, chasing Ramirez, who was charged with five walks and four hits. But Mariners lefty reliever Joel Beimel came in and struck out pinch hitter Jerry Sands to end it.

"I just felt like we've got ourselves a lead against probably one of the toughest left-handers in all of baseball," McClendon said. "I just didn't want to squander it."

Ex-Rays closer Fernando Rodney came in and picked up his second save of the series against his former team, which has the worst record in baseball.

"We've earned that, we've absolutely earned that title right now," Maddon said. "Do I believe we can turn this around? Absolutely, but right now, if you're a baseball fan watching us, and you look at everything, you have to consider us the worst team right now."

NOTES: Rays RHP Grant Balfour is no longer the team's closer, as they will go to a closer-by-committee, manager Joe Maddon said. ... Mariners OF Michael Saunders (right shoulder) didn't play for the third straight game but is expected to return soon. ... Rays RHP Josh Lueke cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham..The Mariners have four shutouts over an eight-game span for the first time since April 21-28, 1993.

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