Rays looking to close homestand with victory

BY foxsports • July 22, 2012

A lack of clutch hitting has hurt the Tampa Bay Rays recently as they've struggled to put together a significant run over the last month.

The Rays will try to bounce back after another lackluster effort at the plate Sunday when they close their series against the Seattle Mariners.

Tampa Bay has had trouble this weekend with Seattle, which has the AL's second-worst record at 41-55. The Rays won 4-3 in 14 innings Friday, but lost 2-1 Saturday, ending a nine-game winning streak over the Mariners.

Jeff Keppinger had three of Tampa Bay's six hits, but the Rays (49-46) went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position after striking out 15 times Friday. Tampa Bay is hitting .180 with runners on second or third in nine games since the All-Star break and ranks second-to-last in the AL at .237.

"That's been our biggest problem this year, the inability to win some close ones based on being able to score the runs we needed to," manager Joe Maddon said.

Losing pitcher Alex Cobb left the game in the second inning with a bruised lower leg after being hit by a ball off the bat by Ichiro Suzuki but expects to be ready for his next start.

While the Rays have been unable to mount a serious challenge to the New York Yankees in the AL East, Tampa Bay is within 1 1/2 games of the two wild-card spots. This despite not having won more than two consecutive games since a four-game winning streak June 7-10.

The Rays will try to pick up their second win this season against Blake Beavan (4-6, 6.06 ERA). He gave up five runs and seven hits, including two homers, in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay on May 2.

Hideki Matsui, hitless in his last 15 at-bats, is 5 for 8 with two doubles against Beavan.

The right-hander is making his second start since being recalled from the minors this month. He surrendered five runs over six innings of a 9-6 win over Kansas City on Tuesday - the fourth straight start in which he's allowed at least five runs.

He takes the mound for the Mariners as they try for their sixth win in nine games.

Jason Vargas pitched six strong innings Saturday after Hisashi Iwakuma went six innings Friday and Felix Hernandez pitched eight in a 6-1 victory over the Royals on Thursday.

The lineup will try to provide Beavan with support off Matt Moore (6-6, 4.39), who has struggled with his control his last two starts.

After being hit hard for five runs in 4 2-3 innings against Cleveland on July 7, he overcame a season high-tying five walks and a hit batter in five-plus innings Tuesday to beat the Indians 4-2.

"I wasn't going the distance I needed to go tonight, but pitching out of jams like that does take a lot out (of you)," said Moore, who has won five of his last six decisions.

The left-hander was better against Seattle on May 1. He allowed a solo homer among seven hits in five innings of a 3-1 victory, striking out seven.

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