ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Grant Balfour doesn’t understand what went wrong. Whatever it was, it happended quick.
The Seattle Mariners broke up a scoreless tie with five runs in the ninth inning Sunday off the Rays beleaguered closer and the Rays lost for the 12th time in 13 games, 5-0 Sunday.
"I think I upset the baseball gods or did something wrong," said Balfour, who struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up four hits and two walks. "I’ve never given up five runs in my career in an inning and I’ve done it twice this year.
"I made good pitches," he added, "and when I didn’t make a good pitch, they hit it."
All of it came after Felix Hernandez struck out a career-high 15 in seven innings for the Mariners, who have won seven of eight.
Rays starter Chris Archer pitched 6 1-3 innings in less spectacular fashion, striking out only two.
"I think (Hernandez) was even better than the perfect-game stuff, better today than when he threw his perfect game in Seattle (against the Rays in 2012)," said manager Joe Maddon. "That changeup was a fastball until the last moment, then it became a changeup. The man was outstanding. Our guy was also really good."
Balfour (0-2) was one pitch away from taking the Rays to the bottom of the ninth with the score still 0-0, but Brad Miller laced a triple into the right field corner. After a walk to Willie Bloomquist, Endy Chavez bounced a single into left field to drive in the first run.
James Jones followed with a two-run triple.
"I’m one pitch away from striking out the side and everyone’s high-fiving you … and you give up five," shrugged Balfour. "I feel like this year has been one of those years where sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you get unlucky and you’ve just got to take it on the chin."
Maddon sounded non-committal about keeping Balfour, who has a 6.46 ERA, in the closer role.
"He’s our closer as of today," Maddon said. "Even if I was going to change anything, I wouldn’t tell you guys."
Hernandez had won his previous five starts, which was two away from tying the team record held by Jamie Moyer (2003) and Scott Bankhead (1989), but the Mariners were held scoreless until the ninth by Archer and two relievers.
Yoervis Medina (3-1) threw a scoreless eighth for the win.
Hernandez reached 1,800 career strikeouts when he struck out Evan Longoria to end the third. This was the right-hander’s 29th double-digit strikeout performance, which moved him past Mark Langston into sole possession of second place on the Mariners’ career list.
Archer, who gave up five hits, is just 1-1 over his last five starts despite allowing just three runs in 31 innings.
"That young man is pretty special," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "He battles. That’s what you call a game for the purists, for the people who enjoy the game of baseball."
NOTES: Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) felt fine one day after his first rehab start Saturday with Single-A Charlotte. He expects to be back before the All-Star break. … The ninth-inning triples gave the Mariners 18 triples, one more than all of last season. . . . Mariners OF Michael Saunders (sore right shoulder) and 1B Justin Smoak (sore left leg) were both out of the lineup for the second straight game. Smoak entered in the ninth as defensive replacement, while Saunders could return in the next few days. … Seattle LHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-4) is scheduled to go against Rays LHP David Price (4-5) in Monday’s series finale.