M’s Win First Series in Two Weeks Against MLB-Leading Rays

Following a brutal final two games against the last-place Washington Nationals last week, Seattle looked to get momentum back on their side with just a few days until the All-Star Game here in the Emerald City. Tampa Bay came into Seattle with the best record in baseball, looking to continue their reign against a struggling Mariners team. Winners Saturday and Sunday, Seattle had a good look at the sweep in front of a packed T-Mobile Park, but a complete fall-apart despite a four-run lead on Friday night wiped that away.

Back to two games under .500 for Seattle, as the M’s hit the road before the break, and it won’t be a particularly smooth one. They have landed in the Bay to take on the San Francisco Giants beginning tonight, followed by a trip to the always-daunting Minute Maid Park to face the Houston Astros to round out the first half. But before we look forward, here’s a look at all three games against Tampa Bay, beginning on Patriotic Fireworks Night Friday.

Rookie Bryce Miller stood high on the hill looking to get the M’s back on track. He faced lefty Shane McClanahan, who leads in the American League in wins, third in ERA and sixth in WAR.

Shockingly, Seattle got on the board first, and in a big way. Bottom of the second, and after a leadoff double by Teoscar Hernandez, Tom Murphy stepped in. The Murph, who has been one of Seattle’s best bats as of late, crushed a curveball over the left field fence. Following Murphy’s two-run shot, the three following batters reached and J.P. Crawford brought home two on a single to right. It was an early four-run lead for the home team.

Top four, and after giving up a walk to Tampa’s Luke Raley, Bryce Miller’s 92-MPH fastball was punished by 2023 All-Star Randy Arozarena. His 411-foot homer lessened the deficit to two for the Rays.

Following Randy’s blast, something appeared wrong with Miller’s pitching hand. As Scott Servais and the trainers came out to look, Miller was forced to leave in the fourth Friday with an under-the-skin blister on his right middle finger. Though Miller is optimistic he can still go in his next scheduled start against the Giants, Servais is concerned, and he may have to put Miller on the IL or option him down to Triple-A so he can be good to go post-All-Star break.

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

Bryce Miller exits Friday's game in the fourth inning with a right middle finger injury. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

Once Miller left, all hell broke loose. The M’s couldn’t hit a pitch with a tennis racket, and it was the complete opposite for TB. The Ray’s tied it in the sixth, and then scored 11 runs (…yikes) in the final two frames. Fifteen unanswered runs led to an embarrassment of a series-opening loss. 15-4 was the final, as depressed Mariner fans watched the Seattle sky glow with fireworks.

Now losers of three straight, Seattle needed somebody to step up. A stellar pitching matchup Saturday afternoon, as it was second-year man George Kirby up against righty Tyler Glasnow.

Again, it was the Mariners who got on the board first in this one. DH Mike Ford singled home Jarred Kelenic in the second and then to lead off the third, J.P. Crawford took Glasnow deep for a solo home run, his seventh on the season.

George was money Saturday. He was able to go seven innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out seven. He gave up two on a sixth-inning two-run home run by Luke Raley that tied the game at two.

Seattle said enough with the lead-blowing antics, as Jarred Kelenic singled home Teoscar Hernandez to help the M’s regain the lead a half-inning later. They weren’t done, as RBIs by Teo, Eugenio Suarez, J.P. and Julio Rodriguez lengthened the lead throughout the final couple of frames as the M’s finished off the Rays Saturday by a score of 8-3.

Get-away Sunday, and it was also La Piedra day, who midway through the ballgame was announced as an All-Star reserve, his third invite to the mid-Summer classic. Castillo faced off against rookie Taj Bradley to close up the series.

This time around, Tampa got the scoring going first. With two down in the first, Randy Arozarena muscled a down-and-in sinker just inside of the left field foul pole to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. In their next at-bats, an almost identical home run was given up to Isaac Paredes, as his 14th of the year extended the Tampa lead.

Eugenio Suarez dug in against Bradley in the home second. Geno has seen some really bad luck as of late in terms of deep fly outs, that would be home runs in most other ballparks. His bad luck finally vanished as he put one into the ‘Pen to get Seattle again within one run.

A 2-1 game was quickly turned into a 6-1 Rays’ lead, and then back into just one-run game all in both halves of the third inning. RBIs by Wander Franco, Luke Raley and Paredes had Tampa Bay up by five. But the following half inning, RBIs by Ty France, Jarred Kelenic and Mike Ford made it a 6-5 game after three.

Bottom six, and Tom Murphy was at the dish looking to tie this game for the first time since the start. He did such that with a mammoth 422-foot homer off of lefty reliever Colin Poche.

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

Tom Murphy, with trident in hand, gets love from his Seattle teammates after his game-tying home run Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

Luis Castillo, despite giving up six runs, was able to finish six innings. Andres Munoz answered the call from the bullpen to back La Piedra, as he went 1-2-3 in the seventh.

Jason Adam came in for Tampa Bay after Poche, and he struggled mightily to find the strike zone against Seattle in the bottom of the seventh. He walked Teo, hit Geno with a pitch, walked Murphy and then hit Jose Caballero with a first-pitch fastball that scored Teo, and gave Seattle their first lead of the afternoon.

Matt Brash, despite walking the first batter he faced, got the Rays to go down in order, and closer Paul Sewald continued his strong season by striking out two of the three batters he faced as Seattle won their first five-run deficit game since game two of the 2022 American League Wild Card Series last October.

A huge momentum-boosting series win for Seattle as they took down baseball’s best. Now, it’s time to take care of business before the break. Seattle has touched down in the Bay to take on the San Francisco Giants, who rank right in the middle in team batting average (.249) and are tenth with a 3.94 team ERA.

They are coming off of a series loss to the struggling New York Mets but sit just 3.5 games out of the lead in the National League West. Here’s a look at the pitching matchups starting tonight in Oracle Park:

  • Monday 7/3, 6:45 PM: RHP Bryan Woo (1-1, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Logan Webb (7-7, 3.43 ERA)
  • Tuesday 7/4, 1:35 PM: RHP Logan Gilbert (5-5, 4.19 ERA) vs. TBD
  • Wednesday 7/5, 6:05 PM: RHP Bryce Miller (5-3, 3.97 ERA) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (5-2, 3.12 ERA)

American League West Standings as of Monday afternoon:

  • 1.Texas Rangers (50-34)
  • 2.Houston Astros (46-38), 4.0 GB
  • 3.Los Angeles Angels (45-41), 6.0 GB
  • 4.Seattle Mariners (40-42), 9.0 GB
  • 5.Oakland Athletics (23-63)

Trade news as of Ken Rosenthal Monday morning: The New York Mets have acquired RHPs Chris Flexen and Trevor Gott from Seattle for LHP Zach Muckenhirn. Flexen’s record this year is 0-4 with an ERA well above seven. Trevor Gott was 0-3 as a Mariners’ reliever with a 4.03 ERA. Zach Muckenhirn had only appeared in three games with the Mets, where he gave up 11 hits and four runs over six innings.

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