ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's new approach had a successful first day.
Jeremy Hellickson allowed six hits over eight sharp innings, Evan Longoria hit his 20th homer of the season and the Rays beat the Seattle Mariners 8-0 on Saturday night.Maddon decided to have his team take a road-like setup for the rest of a homestand that ends Thursday. The players have a later arrival time, onfield work is being cutback and batting practice for those that want it will take place in a cage."It was a nice day ... We did a nice job with that," Maddon said. "Again, I still truly believe that's such an overrated part of baseball, especially the later part of the season. Right now I want fresh bodies and fresh minds. You're not going to get a whole lot out of extra work right now."The Rays have a better road than home record. Tampa Bay has scored 312 road runs this season, compared to 218 at home.Longoria finished with four RBIs, including a two-run homer in the first. He joined Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews as the only major league third basemen to have 20 or more homers in each of their first four seasons."We're on a nice little roll right now and it's because of him," Hellickson said. "If he keeps doing that, we're going to win a lot of games."Hellickson (11-8) was coming off the shortest start of his 32-game career, a 9-2 loss last Saturday to the New York Yankees in which the rookie gave up four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.Joel Peralta pitched the ninth and completed a seven-hitter for the Rays, who have won nine of 11 and improved to a season-high 12-games over .500 (68-56).Tampa Bay moved within 7½ games of the AL wild card-leading Boston. The Rays are eight in back of the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East."Keep sneaking up from behind and see what happens," Maddon said.Seattle has lost four in a row. The Mariners, who entered hitting a major league-low .231, didn't advance a runner past second base until one-out in the eighth.After Johnny Damon tripled, Longoria put the Rays ahead 2-0 on a two-run shot off Charlie Furbush (3-5) during the first. Longoria has 59 RBIs over his last 60 games.Damon and Sean Rodriguez each had run-scoring singles, and Casey Kotchman hit a sacrifice fly in the third to put Tampa Bay ahead 5-0.Furbush gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings. The left-hander has allowed 12 runs over seven innings in his last two road starts."His secondary stuff was up a little bit," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "They did a good job against him, too. They kind of took what he gave them. They didn't try to do too much with it. They were wearing him out back up the middle."Elliot Johnson had an RBI single and Longoria drove in a pair with a single that made it 8-0 in the eighth.Ichiro Suzuki had been hitless in nine at-bats, including his first three plate appearances Saturday, against Hellickson before getting an eighth-inning single off the right-hander.Seattle first baseman Mike Carp extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single in the fourth.Mariners shortstop Luis Rodriguez got hit on right elbow by Hellickson's pitch in the second and left the game after running the bases. Wedge said the infielder is day to day.
Rays LF Desmond Jennings had three stolen bases. ... Seattle SS Brendan Ryan, who returned Friday after being out with a sprained left shoulder joint, could be back in the starting lineup in the next couple days. ... Tampa Bay RHP James Shields (11-10) will look to increase his major league-best nine complete games this season on Sunday. .... Mariners RHP Michael Pineda (9-7), Sunday's scheduled starter, leads all AL rookies with 143 strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitting just .209 against him. ... Kotchman was credited with a seventh-inning infield single in Friday night's game as part of a scoring change. Mariners 3B Adam Kennedy had originally been charged with an error for misplaying Kotchman's grounder.