ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Once again, the young Seattle Mariners were left to lament wasted opportunities in a close game.
Kyle Seager's three-run, first-inning homer stopped an 0-for-30 drought with runners in scoring position, but didn't end his team's hitting woes in key situations on Wednesday night.
After stranding the potential tying run at third base in the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay, manager Eric Wedge said youth is not an excuse for inconsistency.
"Obviously we've been very streaky as a club. We have these young kids out there that will have to get beyond that and work to be more consistent," Wedge said.
"The flip side of that is we're in every ball game," the manager added. "We're not looking for moral victories. But we are in every ball game, and we're right there where a situation, a play or an at bat here or there can be the difference in the ball game. That's where we have to get much better."
Sean Rodriguez and Luke Scott homered, helping right-hander James Shields (5-0) weather a rocky first inning to remain unbeaten for Tampa Bay.
Joel Peralta came out of the bullpen to shut down the Seattle threat in the eighth, then worked a perfect ninth for his first save of the season.
"He picked up a real big-league save there with five outs. That was spectacular," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Shields allowed four runs and five hits, walked four and struck out 11 over six innings to win his sixth straight decision over two seasons, matching the longest winning streak of his career. Kyle Seager homered twice off the 2011 All-Star, driving in all of Seattle's runs.
The Mariners struck out 14 times after fanning 24 times in the first two games of the series against Tampa Bay pitching.
"The strikeouts are just ridiculous to me right now. These guys are better than that," Wedge said. "This is not going to continue to happen. We're not going to let it happen."
Rodriguez hit a two-run homer off Blake Beavan (1-4) in the third inning. Scott's solo shot off the Seattle starter glanced off center fielder Michael Saunders' glove before clearing the wall to snap a 4-4 tie in the sixth.
"To be honest, I don't really know what happened there," Saunders said. "I know I got a piece of the ball. That's it. ... It was just one of those plays that happened so fast. I hit the wall and came down without the ball."