Mariners-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

Felix Hernandez notched the first of five straight wins last month against Tampa Bay. Another victory over the Rays will give him the longest winning streak of his career.

He'll try to lead the Seattle Mariners to their seventh win in eight contests Sunday in the third of a four-game set at Tropicana Field.

Hernandez (8-1, 2.57 ERA) has struck out 38 over 38 1-3 innings with just four walks while winning his last five starts, matching a career best from Sept. 13-Oct. 4, 2009.

The streak began with a 12-5 victory versus Tampa Bay on May 12 in which Hernandez got nine runs of support while yielding four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. He's 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 12 career matchups with the Rays.

Hernandez owns a 7.0 run-support average during the streak, and his 5.6 mark for the season is the second-highest of his career behind the 6.3 he received in 2007. Seattle supplied him with six runs in a 10-2 win over the Yankees on Monday when he gave up two runs and eight hits in seven innings.

"When you see that kind of run support, it's always fun to pitch," he told the team's official website.

The Mariners (32-29) can move a season-best four games above .500. They haven't been that high over the plateau this late in a season since finishing 85-77 in 2009.

After managing just five hits while losing Friday's opener 4-0, they scored at least seven runs for the third time in five games with a 7-4 win Saturday.

Michael Saunders didn't play after leaving in the third inning Friday due to tightness in his shoulder, but Cole Gillespie hit his fourth major league home run while starting in his place in right field and is 7 for his last 14.

Saunders is day to day, manager Lloyd McClendon told the team's official website.

Tampa Bay (24-39) has dropped 11 of 12 and will hand to ball to Chris Archer (3-3, 3.73) as the club aims for just its second home series victory in its last seven. Archer owns a 1.09 ERA over his last four outings but hasn't been as lucky as Hernandez, receiving a total of three runs of support over 24 2-3 innings in that span.

He was a tough-luck loser Tuesday, limiting Miami to a run and striking out eight in seven innings in a 1-0 defeat. The run came on a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the fifth.

Archer lost his previous two starts against Seattle last year, yielding seven runs in nine innings. Brad Miller homered twice against him in the Mariners' 5-4 victory Aug. 13.

Former Rays closer Fernando Rodney recorded his 17th save Saturday with a perfect ninth. He's tossed 7 1-3 scoreless innings in eight appearances since his last blown save, and Seattle's bullpen ERA of 1.35 since May 14 is the best in baseball.

Robinson Cano is 35 for 87 (.402) over his last two games and is batting .406 during a 16-game road hitting streak dating to May 3.

Evan Longoria hit his seventh homer Saturday and is 10 for 27 (.370) while hitting safely in seven straight. He also owns an OPS of 1.061 in 14 career home games versus Seattle with 11 RBIs.

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