For the second time in two weeks, the Tampa Bay Rays will face the Seattle Mariners when the teams open a four-game series Thursday night in Seattle, Wash.

In their first series last week on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay won the set by taking two of three from the Mariners – dropping the first game 8-4 before earning a pair of one-run victories to close the series.

After losing a home weekend series against the Minnesota Twins, the Rays rebounded by sweeping three contests in Oakland, including an impressive ninth-inning rally Tuesday when they trailed by two runs entering the ninth.

Tampa Bay scored twice in the frame to force extra innings, getting a pinch-hit two-run homer from Mike Zunino. Then the defending American League East champions added five more tallies in the 10th inning to win 10-7 over the Athletics.

“We’ve grinded through some series and some games – it feels like for basically all season long,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Whatever this month has told us, the guys haven’t changed their thought process whatsoever.

“It’s a very similar group that knows they’re capable of doing special things in any given inning.”

On Wednesday, they did that special thing in the eighth inning to complete their first-ever series sweep in Oakland. They plated three in the frame and got a combined four-hit shutout from four pitchers in a 3-0 victory.

Hitting has been a problem for Seattle, which went quietly at the plate in dropping all three games this week in Houston. The lack of offense has been a frequent obstacle for the Mariners in the hitter-friendly ballpark for over three seasons.

While Eugenio Suarez stroked a two-run homer off Justin Verlander in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to the AL West rival Astros, it marked the first runs of the series for the visitors following shutouts Monday and Tuesday.

The loss also lowered their mark to 4-25 in Houston since the 2019 season opened – a span during which Seattle has been outscored 190-77.

“We’ve hit some balls relatively hard that have been caught,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said before Wednesday’s defeat, which ended the club’s road trip at 2-7. “We’re just not putting anything together. When we’ve worked ourselves into positive counts or hitter’s counts, we haven’t taken advantage of that either.

“We’re in a moment in time. This happens throughout the course of a year. When you don’t hit, it looks like you’re not trying. That’s not the case at all.”

Tampa Bay will be playing the fourth matchup of their 10-game, 10-day road trip. Seattle heads home to start a seven-game homestand.

After striking out a career-high 11 against Minnesota on Saturday, Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan (1-2, 3.00 ERA) will make his sixth start Thursday. He leads the majors with 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings, ahead of San Francisco’s Carlos Rodon (12.7).

The left-hander made his lone career start against the Mariners last June 20 in Seattle. He earned no decision after allowing one run – a solo homer to catcher Luis Torrens — on three hits over six innings, while striking out eight.

Seattle will counter with Robbie Ray (2-2, 4.15), who will also be making his sixth start this season and ninth in his career against Tampa Bay.

The left-handed Ray holds a 2-3 record with a 2.77 ERA against the Rays, who have struck out 68 times in eight appearances against the Brentwood, Tenn., native.

-Field Level Media