SEATTLE (AP) -Hard to say who's in more of a renaissance right now - the Rays or
In the last three years, Percival has been an out-of-gas flame thrower with a blown out elbow, an advance scout and, as of
14 months ago, a minor league coach.
Now, the supposedly retired closer is leading Tampa Bay toward the AL East title, a destination as improbable for him as it
is for his team.
hit his 21st home run, the 38-year-old Percival looked as dominant as ever while getting his 25th save and the Rays increased
their lead in the AL East to 3 1/2 games with a 5-3 victory over the
on Friday night.
Tampa Bay's edge over second-place Boston is its largest since July 7.
Percival struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect ninth inning, blowing away
- who had earlier hit a two-run homer - and then pinch-hitter
to end save No. 25, in 28 chances. That's 17 more saves than he had from 2005-07.
Tampa Bay is 28-0 when he enters the game in a save situation. He has 349 career saves, eighth-most all-time.
(10-7), who allowed three runs in 6 2-3 scrappy innings to get the Rays' eighth win in 10 games, how impressive Percival has
been coming back and he laughs. Loudly.
''It's amazing, man,'' the 26-year-old Shields said of his fellow Southern Californian. ''If I could throw half as good as
he does when I'm 38, I'd be happy.''
Not that's it's been as easy as it's looked.
''His arm feels good. The biggest thing is to keep the rest of him going,'' manager Joe Maddon said, also laughing.
Percival was the last man out of the training room later Friday night after helping his Rays improve to 24-29 on the road
- where 28 of Tampa Bay's final 47 games will be. He's been on the disabled list twice this season with hamstring problems.
When asked if he spends a lot of time in there these days, he cackled.
''Are you kidding me? It takes five innings to get ready to pitch one,'' Percival said.
He said he has to begin getting ready in the training room with stretching, lifting and agility exercises during the third
inning if there's even a hint he may pitch the ninth.
''I'm not kidding. It's a lot,'' he said. ''Used to be I'd grab a ball, throw the ninth inning and go home. Not anymore. It's
a lot of work, but it's worth it to be with this team going where we are.''
Tampa Bay is one victory from tying the franchise record of 70 wins in a season.
The recently surging Pena made up for the absence of
, the team's leader in home runs and RBIs. Longoria is missing at least one day of his team's season-long, 10-game road trip
because of a bruised hand.
Pena gave the Rays the lead in the second inning with his solo home run off
. He then singled home the final run of the decisive four-run third.
Silva (4-13) allowed eight hits and five runs - four earned - in six-plus innings to take the AL lead in losses. The Mariners
sunk back to 26 games under .500 one night after stunning the Rays with a last at-bat home run.
The right-hander, signed to a $48 million, four-year contract as a free agent before Seattle's lost season, still has won
just once since April 17.
''I don't care if we are 40 games behind, we should play better than this,'' Silva said, calling out position players for
at least the third time this season. ''I can talk about the starting rotation - every time we cross the line we want to do
our best. ... Maybe half of the team don't have that mentality.''
Some of Silva's ire likely came from his defense giving the Rays half of their runs in the key third. With one out, No. 9
, subbing for injured shortstop
, singled. So did
. B.J. Upton singled home Zobrist to tie the game at 2. Then
hit a hard one-hopper that shortstop
snared, but Betancourt sailed his throw 10 feet over first base and into a camera well. The two-base error scored Iwamura
and Upton to put the Rays ahead 4-2.
It was Betancourt's 17th error this season, most of any AL shortstop.
Pena then singled home Crawford to make it 5-2.
Notes: The Rays designated 38-year-old RHP
for assignment after the game, to make roster room for RHP
's arrival Saturday. ''It wasn't a surprise,'' Reyes said. Bradford was acquired off waivers from Baltimore Friday. ... The
Mariners optioned RHP
back to Triple-A Tacoma and recalled LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith from Tacoma to replace
in their rotation, beginning Saturday night. ... Tampa Bay is the sixth team dating to 1902 to be in first place on Aug. 8
or later after having baseball's worst record the year before. The 1991
were the only such team that ended the season in first place.