The Rays go for their season-high seventh straight win Monday night when they open a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners .
Tampa Bay kicked off a 10-game road trip with a three-game sweep against Minnesota over the weekend. The Rays (62-52) won 7-3 in 10 innings Sunday to match a season high with their sixth straight victory.
Jeff Keppinger homered, doubled and later drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th.
Tampa Bay moved five games behind New York for first place in the AL East - the closest it has been since the morning of June 26 - and leads the AL wild card."I believe in all these guys," manager Joe Maddon said. "I like the energy with which we're playing."
It was the third time in four games Maddon's club scored at least seven runs.
The Rays haven't lost since the return of Longoria, who missed 85 games because of a partially torn left hamstring. While Longoria's hitting .261 (6 for 23) with a double and four RBIs in his return, Maddon said he may give his slugger Monday off.
Perhaps overlooked in Tampa Bay's run is an incredible stretch by its pitching staff. The Rays lead the AL with a 3.38 ERA, and they have compiled a 1.81 mark while limiting opponents to a .181 batting average while winning 15 of 22.
Alex Cobb (6-8, 4.32 ERA) will try to extend this stretch Monday looking to win his third straight start.
Cobb has given up one run in each of the last two outings, surrendering five hits while striking out seven in seven innings of a 3-2 victory over Toronto on Wednesday.
"That was the best curve I've seen all year from any of our pitchers," Maddon said. "To both righties and lefties, it was quick, it was hard, there was no hump in it."
Cobb is 0-2 in two starts against the Mariners, including one this year. He left his July 21 start after being struck in the lower leg. He had allowed two runs and three hits in two innings.
The Mariners (53-63) have a little momentum of their own, winning the final two of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels . They closed a nine-game road trip with a 4-1 victory Sunday.
Seattle returns home, where it most recently swept Kansas City and Toronto to put together a seven-game winning streak - its longest since winning nine in a row at home June 23-July 12, 2007.
"I felt like we got over the hump a little bit the last homestand, both offensively and win-loss wise," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website.
Jesus Montero will try to keep that run going. He homered twice Sunday and is hitting .367 with 17 RBIs in the last 23 games.
The Mariners will turn to Blake Beavan (7-6, 5.12), who has won his last four decisions.
Beavan allowed four runs and two homers in six innings of an 8-7, 14-inning loss to the Orioles on Tuesday.
The right-hander has split two starts against the Rays this year. He was charged with one run and four hits in eight innings of a 2-1 victory July 22.
Tampa Bay is 5-2 against Seattle this year, losing the last two meetings.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|August 05, 2012||Ben Zobrist||Day-to-Day||Left game - upper back spasms|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Alex Cobb||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee contusion|
|July 02, 2012||Hideki Matsui||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|June 30, 2012||Jeremy Hellickson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right shin|
|June 29, 2012||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|August 06, 2012||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Left elbow contusion|
|July 18, 2012||Charlie Furbush||15-Day DL||Strained left triceps|
|July 01, 2012||Erasmo Ramirez||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|July 01, 2012||Erasmo Ramirez||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|June 30, 2012||Erasmo Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - leg injury|
|June 29, 2012||Franklin Gutierrez||Day-to-Day||Left Game-Head Injury|
SEATTLE (AP) -- In the ninth inning, Tampa Bay catcher Jose Molina broke for second base and, despite a careening slide, was safe. It was his second steal of the year and 14th in 13 major league seasons.
When it's going right, it's going right.
B.J. Upton hit a two-run homer and Alex Cobb pitched seven strong innings to help the Rays to their season-high seventh consecutive win, 4-1 over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
The Rays are rolling. They have grabbed control of the wild-card race lead by winning 10 of their last 12. They again used an efficient combination Monday: Some pop, a quality start and Joel Peralta combining with Fernando Rodney to seal the win.
Cobb (7-8) allowed a run and four hits. He struck out five and walked two in his fourth consecutive quality start and third consecutive win. His ERA is 1.93 over his last four outings. He threw first-pitch strikes to the first 20 hitters.
"Any time my pitches are working, I'm going to have that tempo going," Cobb said.
Upton provided the pop with his 13th homer of the season, a two-run shot to the upper deck in left off Seattle starter Blake Beavan that gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead. Upton's homer was followed by a single from Matt Joyce and a double to center by Ben Zobrist that made it 4-0.
Beavan (7-7) pitched six innings, allowing eight hits and four earned runs with four strikeouts. He allowed all four runs on five hits in the third inning, and just three hits in five other scoreless innings.
Typically, Beavan works off a sinking, 92-mph fastball. On Monday, he threw several off-speed pitches early. Upton hit a slider for his home run.
"(He) kind of threw us for a loop the first couple innings," Upton said.
Peralta took over for Cobb after the seventh. It was the fourth consecutive outing of seven innings for Cobb, which was a formula Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon didn't want to mess with.
Rodney followed Peralta to record his major league-leading and career-high tying 37th save in 38 tries by pitching a scoreless ninth. He extended his club record to 22 consecutive saves.
Rodney celebrates by pretending to shoot a bow and arrow into center field. Peralta, who has 28 holds, just runs off the mound without a gimmick.
"Maybe a slingshot would be appropriate," Maddon said.
Sam Fuld singled and stole second before Desmond Jennings ' single drove him in for Tampa Bay's first run.
Beavan allowed five consecutive hits during his 43-pitch third inning. He struck out Carlos Pena looking to end it. After three innings, Beavan had recorded nine outs and allowed seven hits.
"The pitch to Upton is the only one I'd take back," Beavan said.
Cobb retired the first eight Mariners before Brendan Ryan lined a single up the middle in the third. Cobb quickly disposed of Dustin Ackley with a grounder to second to close the inning.
Eric Thames ' single through the right side in the fifth scored Trayvon Robinson , who had led off with a triple, to make it 4-1. But Thames was picked off first base by Molina after a pitch in the dirt bounced straight up to him and Thames had taken a few steps toward second.
Chone Figgins walked, then Ryan and Ackley grounded out to end the inning.
"We were in the ballgame, but we never had that inning," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Hard-throwing Mariners rookie reliever Carter Capps made his home debut in the seventh inning. Capps walked three and struck out one.
Zobrist had three hits and Maddon said he will continue to play shortstop, where he started Monday.
NOTES: Seattle C John Jaso has reached base safely in a career-high 10 consecutive games. ... Wedge said there's a "pretty good chance" 1B Mike Carp will have to go on the DL because of an injured thigh. . Seattle OF Franklin Gutierrez changed his medication in hopes that it reduces his headaches. Gutierrez exercised Monday and is scheduled to perform baseball activities Tuesday. He has been on the 15-day DL since June 29 because of a concussion. . Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria received a day off Monday. Maddon said nothing is wrong with Longoria, and he is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday. . Joyce extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with his third-inning single.