|Rays seek success at home against Mariners|
Tropicana Field hasn't exactly been the friendliest of confines for the Tampa Bay Rays this season.
But perhaps that's starting to change heading into a three-game series against the visiting Seattle Mariners that opens Monday.
The Rays have posted back-to-back walk-off wins at home, the latter a 5-4 decision Sunday against the Detroit Tigers on Ji-Man Choi's two-run, bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
On Saturday, the Rays won 1-0 in 13 innings as pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau, a rookie, came through with a two-out single.
"You can't (fall behind) too many times," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "At some point we gotta get a lead for our pitchers a little bit and let them work with a little bit of room to wiggle out of. Certainly we'll take these two (wins). At this time of the season, every win you can get is important, and these two have been really big."
The two walk-off wins against the lowly Tigers, who have the worst record in the majors, helped the Rays improve to 33-29 at home and remain in the American League's second and final wild-card playoff spot. On the road they're 40-23 with an MLB-best .635 winning percentage.
"I know we're going to talk about that until we get on a run here,'' Cash said after Friday's 2-0 loss to the Tigers. "I don't have a good answer for you, for any of it, really. We've pitched pretty consistently all year. Offensively, I don't think there's a major gap to what we do.
"I know we've got to play better at home. I certainly would agree with that assessment.''
Even the players seemed perplexed by their comparative lack of success at home.
"Just one of those weird quirks in baseball that you can't explain,'' Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier told the Tampa Bay Times.
The Mariners have won four of their first six games during their nine-game trip, taking two of three in both Detroit and Toronto. Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi pitched a two-hitter in a 7-0 victory Sunday against the Blue Jays, needing only 96 pitches.
Third baseman Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a solo homer, his 16th of the season, in the second inning to give the Mariners the only run they would need. Seager has hits in 22 of his past 23 games, batting .357 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs in that span, to raise his season average from .186 to .242.
Seager, who hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning of Saturday's 4-3 victory, suggested his recent run is due to good health and better swing mechanics.
"If you are missing fastballs and you aren't on fastballs, you aren't going to be successful," he told the Seattle Times. "Last year, I couldn't do the things I wanted to do. I had physical issues that wouldn't let me do it. If the ball was in one spot, I could maybe hit it."
Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales (12-10, 4.26 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener against Rays lefty Brendan McKay (2-2, 5.08), a rookie who will be making his first appearance against Seattle.
Gonzales is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in three career starts against the Rays. He faced them Aug. 9 in Seattle but didn't get a decision in a 5-3 defeat, allowing two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts.
-- Field Level Media