Mariners-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

Although the rotation recently carried the Tampa Bay Rays through their best stretch of the season, it has let the team down during its worst.

Giving the ball to David Price should give the Rays a good chance to turn things around.

Price looks to maintain his elite form and help Tampa Bay avoid its longest losing streak in nearly four years Wednesday night against the visiting Seattle Mariners.

While their starters posted a major-league best 2.17 ERA during a 23-4 stretch from June 29-July 30, the Rays (66-51) have gotten a 7.11 ERA from that group during the current six-game skid.

Chris Archer became the latest Tampa Bay starter to get knocked around, surrendering five runs and nine hits over five-plus innings in Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Seattle (55-63).

"I was hoping to go out there and reverse the fortune that we've been having," Archer said. "Hopefully (Price) can go out there and do his thing and get us a win."

Price (6-5, 3.17 ERA) will try to help the Rays avoid losing seven straight for the first time since an 11-game slide Sept. 3-13, 2009.

The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner has the team's lone quality start during the losing streak, giving up one unearned run over seven innings before the bullpen blew a late five-run lead in Friday's 7-6 loss at Dodger Stadium.

Price walked one, snapping his run of 35 1-3 consecutive innings without a walk, the longest such streak in Rays' history.

"I didn't feel as good as I felt in my six other starts that I've had off the DL," Price said. "This was the most erratic I was and it was the worst command I've had."

The left-hander, however, is 5-1 with three complete games and a 1.40 ERA in eight starts since missing six-plus weeks with a triceps strain.

Price has never faced the Mariners, who will try to win three in a row for the first time since a season-best eight-game run July 12-23.

Seattle batted .216 over its previous six games before pounding out 12 hits in Tuesday's series opener, with leadoff man Brad Miller hitting two home runs.

Justin Smoak went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, leaving him with a .375 average and 10 RBIs since Aug. 1. Dustin Ackley added three hits and is 8 for 14 in his last four games.

That kind of success has escaped Mariners scheduled starter Aaron Harang (5-10, 5.79) of late.

He's been tagged for 14 runs and 12 hits - four homers - over seven-plus innings in his last two outings. He gave up seven runs for the third time in five starts last Wednesday, pitching a season-worst two-plus innings in a 9-7 win over Toronto.

"I felt like in the first inning I came out throwing strikes," Harang told the league's official website. "In the second inning, I was just missing with pitches, felt I made a couple good pitches, but the ball just fell in."

Harang hasn't started against Tampa Bay since 2002 while with Oakland. This time, he faces a Rays team that is batting .204 with runners in scoring position during its skid.

Evan Longoria has been scuffling with a .136 average in his last 11 games, but Ben Zobrist is hitting .356 over that same span after homering twice Tuesday.

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