Major League Baseball

Rays hope to stop Mariners with Morton on mound

mlb2MARINERS (54-73) AT RAYS (73-54)

The Tampa Bay Rays (-1.5) have lost their mojo.

To get it back, they’ll send ace Charlie Morton to the mound Wednesday afternoon as they attempt to avoid a three-game sweep by the visiting Seattle Mariners (+1.5).

The Rays blew a two-run lead Tuesday in a 7-4 loss to the Mariners, dropping them into a tie with Oakland for the American League’s second and final wild-card playoff spot.

“Most of us just play better when we have that confidence going and kind of that swagger throughout the whole lineup, we feed off that,” Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier told “Right now, we just don’t have that kind of momentum going for us, and it’s tough. We’re in a tough situation, but we all know that we control our own destiny, and we all have to find ways to be better.”

After rallying for two walk-off wins over the weekend against the Detroit Tigers (+2), the team with the worst record in the major leagues, the Rays have struggled with a Seattle club that’s in “step-back” mode and in last place in the AL West.

The two losses to the Mariners have dropped the Rays’ home record this season to 33-31.

“We’ve been in a rut here for a little while,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “To be honest, it’s been a grind here since we’ve gotten back home.”

Added Kiermaier: “We’re not playing good baseball right now, that’s fair to say. I think it all stems from our offense. We just don’t have a lot of guys locked in right now. … We haven’t gotten a whole lot of guys on base lately, and our pitching has been a little bit more human here the last four or five games.”

The Rays hope Morton (13-5, 2.77 ERA) can stop that streak. In his past three starts, the right-hander has struck out 29 batters and walked none, though he’s 1-2 over that stretch. The lone victory came Aug. 10 at Seattle, where he went six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits with 10 strikeouts. Morton is 5-3 with a 4.19 ERA in nine career starts against Seattle.

The Mariners plan to use right-hander Cory Gearrin as an opener before turning the ball over to left-hander Wade LeBlanc (6-7, 5.40 ERA), who has lost his past four appearances. He took a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 11 in Seattle, allowing one run on five hits in six innings. He’s 0-2 with a 3.97 ERA in two career appearances, one start, against the Rays.

The Mariners, who have won four games in a row, hope to continue to ride the hot bats of Kyle Seager and Tom Murphy, who both homered Tuesday. Murphy has hit home runs in four consecutive games.

“Those guys are really locked in right now, and it’s just fun to watch,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s a number of guys contributing, but offensively, it’s been very consistent.

“Love the energy around the team right now. Guys are really pulling for each other. They’re coming in early, they’re working, they’re enjoying, you know, going through the daily process, and that’s hard to do in August.”

–Field Level Media

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