Mariners-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

Despite being without star Evan Longoria for the foreseeable future, the Tampa Bay Rays remain confident they can still be successful.

They usually feel that way with James Shields on the mound.

The right-hander has a chance to become the majors' first five-game winner as he tries to continue his recent home success and help the AL East-leading Rays to a fourth consecutive victory Wednesday night against the struggling Seattle Mariners.

Hours after Tuesday's announcement that Longoria would miss four to eight weeks with a partially torn left hamstring, Tampa Bay (16-8) ran its winning streak to three with a 3-1 win over Seattle. Matt Joyce drove in two runs and had two of the Rays' three hits, including a homer.

"We're still a really good team (without Longoria)," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "It's one of those things that's definitely not ideal, but we do have a ton of talent around him that should allow us to still win a lot of games."

Joyce is batting .346 with five of his team-leading six home runs in his last 12 games for a Tampa Bay team that's won nine of 10.

"Longo has some big shoes to fill,'' Joyce said. "I think the guys realize that we have to pick it up. ... Injuries are part of the game. You have to pick each other up. That's what a good team does''

Another of Longoria's talented teammates is Shields (4-0, 3.31 ERA), who won his fourth straight start after he allowed four runs, 11 hits and struck out eight without a walk in six innings of an 8-4 win at Texas on Friday.

One other four-game winner, St. Louis' Lance Lynn, is scheduled to start Wednesday.

Shields, who has never won five straight starts, is 7-0 with a 2.56 ERA in nine starts at Tropicana Field since July 21.

He was 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA in his first nine starts against Seattle before going 0-1 with an 11.12 ERA in two last season, allowing six homers in 11 1-3 innings.

The Rays have won six in a row overall against the Mariners (11-14), who have dropped five straight and nine of 10 in St. Petersburg.

Seattle has totaled five runs during its current four-game skid that's followed a four-game winning stretch. Michael Saunders homered and catcher Jesus Montero had four hits Tuesday for the Mariners, who are 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position through the first two of this four-game set.

Montero, who hit .328 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games last season, is batting .361 (13 for 36) with two home runs and six RBIs in his last eight contests.

Scheduled starter Blake Beavan (1-2, 3.60) has allowed three runs and one homer in each of his last three starts. He gave up seven hits for the second straight outing when he lasted 5 2-3 innings of a 9-5, 10-inning loss at Toronto on Friday.

"My big focus every time is to go as deep as I can," Beavan told the Mariners' official website. "Whether it's a quality start or not, if I throw enough strikes and keep the ball down, I should be able to hang around that long."

This will be the right-hander's first appearance against the Rays.

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