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MLB Baseball

7
Final 1 2 3   4 5 6   7 8 9   R H E
Seattle3 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 7140
Tampa Bay0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 140
1
  W: E. Ramirez (5-4)   L: A. Pruitt (6-4)
4:10 PM PT5:10 PM MT6:10 PM CT7:10 PM ET19:10 ET23:10 GMT7:10 4:10 PM MST6:10 PM EST6:40 PM VEN3:10 UAE (+1)6:10 PM CT, August 18, 2017
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida  Attendance: 11,501

Rays host Mariners in matchup of slumping teams

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Seattle Mariners continue to hover at .500, which is enough to remain in the thick of the American League wild-card chase with 40 games to play.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who host Seattle in the opener of a three-game series on Friday, are struggling to stay in the same conversation.

Seattle (61-61) had Thursday off, after back-to-back wins over Baltimore to finish a 2-5 homestand. The Rays (60-63) have lost 10 of their last 13 after dropping three of four games at Toronto.

"That will put a few gray hairs on here," Mariners manager Scott Servais said while lifting his hat after a 7-6 win over Baltimore on Wednesday.

Even as both teams scrap for wins, a three-game sweep would have either team back in postseason relevance, which is more than .500 baseball normally gives you in mid-August. A logjam of teams chasing the Los Angeles Angels for the final wild card are all close enough to play with added motivation -- though that hasn't helped either Seattle or Tampa Bay of late.

Seattle will start right-hander Erasmo Ramirez against the team that dealt him away for reliever Steve Cishek last month.

Ramirez is 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA this season. He is 0-1 with a 4.40 ERA in three starts since returning to Seattle, where he pitched from 2012 to 2014.

Ramirez was sharp in his last outing, going six innings and holding the Angels to three hits and a single unearned run. If you go back to his earlier Mariners stint, he's 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA against the Rays.

Cishek has been stellar since coming to the Rays, who acquired him and veteran relievers Sergio Romo and Dan Jennings before the non-waiver trade deadline.

In nine games, he has yet to allow a run. He also has recorded nine strikeouts in nine innings.

The Rays' bullpen has been one of baseball's best in August, but their sputtering offense has made that largely a moot point.

In 13 games since Aug. 4, the Rays have totaled 23 runs. They are hitting .196 (82-for-419) overall and .105 (8-for-76) with runners in scoring position in those games.

"It's going to be frustrating until we figure out how to put something together," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said Thursday after a 5-3 loss in Toronto. "I wish I had an answer."

Longoria was 2-for-3 Thursday but is hitting .196 (10-for-51) in his last 14 games since hitting for the cycle Aug. 1 at Houston. Before this slump, Longoria batted .361 (26-for-72) in his previous 18 contests.

To face Ramirez, the Rays will turn to their own 27-year-old right-hander, rookie Austin Pruitt, who struggled in the bullpen much of this season but has pitched well since joining the rotation. In his last three starts, he has a 1.96 ERA (four runs in 18 1/3 innings).

He still carries a 5.07 ERA for the season and a nicer looking 6-3 record. His only outing against Seattle came in relief and didn't go well, with three runs in 1 1/3 innings for a 20.25 ERA.

Updated August 18, 2017

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