Mariners-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The last time David Price started against the Seattle Mariners, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves in a manageable hole in the standings.

Move forward 25 games and it's reached unfortunate depths for a club that has grown used to AL East relevancy.

Now 16 games under .500, the Rays send Price to the mound Monday in the finale of a four-game home series against the Seattle Mariners.

After Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Mariners (33-29), the Rays (24-40) have won once in 13 games with 24 runs scored in their last 11. They matched a franchise record by striking out 17 times and are beginning to wonder if it's just not their year.

"Sometimes I feel like this year's just been one of those years where sometimes you can get a bit lucky and sometimes you get unlucky and you got to take it on the chin," reliever Grant Balfour told the team's official website.

Seattle has more to be optimistic about having won seven of eight with plenty of offense and pitching. The Mariners are hitting .283 with 4.75 runs per game and a .207 opponent average with a 2.15 ERA during that time.

Price (4-5, 4.03 ERA) will try to change that and win for the first time in five starts. His last victory came in Seattle on May 13, when he threw his second complete game of the season and limited the Mariners to a run and six hits while matching a season high with 12 strikeouts.

The left-hander is 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in two career starts against Seattle.

The last time out, Price allowed five runs - one earned - and nine hits while striking out 11 in Wednesday's 5-4 home loss to Miami.

He'll be opposed by Erasmo Ramirez, who made his first major league start in nearly a month in Tuesday's 7-5 win in Atlanta. His struggles continued after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. Ramirez (1-4, 6.82) allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings and hasn't won since his first start of the season on April 1.

The right-hander is being hit at a .304 clip and said he wasn't able to bring his pitch location back with him from the minors.

"I was just missing my spots too much," Ramirez said. "The things I wasn't doing in Triple-A, I did here and I paid for it."

Ramirez made two starts against Tampa Bay last season, going 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11 1-3 innings. Ben Zobrist went 4 for 7 with a pair of home runs.

Seattle has been without right fielder Michael Saunders (shoulder soreness) and first baseman Justin Smoak (sore left leg) for two games. Smoak entered Sunday as a defensive replacement while Saunders is considered day to day.

Cole Gillespie has made the loss easier, going 7 for 15 over four games as he's made the most of consistent big-league at-bats.

"Anytime you get back-to-back games and consistent at-bats, every batter is going to feel a little more positive that way," Gillespie told the team's official website. "But I wasn't getting frustrated. I just waited for my opportunity and right now it's now. Hopefully, I can string together some good games and good at-bats and get some W's."

Robinson Cano is batting .396 over his last 23 games and owns a 17-game road hitting streak.

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