Wilson's blast lifts Mariners past Rays

Wilson's blast lifts Mariners past Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mariners have their own "magic" number, and it has nothing to do with getting to play beyond next Sunday.

If they win four of their remaining seven games, a 100-loss season would be avoided.

The Mariners won their 59th game of the season Sunday afternoon, a 6-2 decision over the Rays before 22,301 at Tropicana Field, delaying for at least one day Tampa Bay's playoff-clinching celebration.

As for the Mariners, staying away from the franchise's second 100-loss season in the past three years is their primary objective heading into the final week of the campaign.

"That's one of those numbers no one wants to get to," shortstop Josh Wilson said. "In some ways, there obviously is still something for us to play for, at least in my mind. That is something no team wants to do."

Wilson delivered the second of two crucial hits in Sunday's win, hitting a tiebreaking three-run home run off Rays right-hander James Shields with two outs in the sixth inning.

That put Seattle in front for the second time in the series finale, and this time it stood up as right-handed relievers Jamey Wright, Dan Cortes and Brandon League retired 11 of the 12 batters they faced to secure left-hander Luke French's fifth win.

The Mariners headed to Arlington afterward for a three-game series against the American League West-champion Rangers, one small step removed from triple digits in defeats.

"I have played for some bad teams in my career," Wright said, "but have never been on one that lost 100 games."

It's one of the ugliest numbers in the game.

"Nobody wants to be part of a 100-loss team," Wilson said. "Even if it's 99 [losses], it's like the guy who hits .299. A .300 average looks so much better. Ninety-nine losses is still not a 100-loss season.

"Hopefully, we can keep playing well and not make it."

A few more all-around performances like Sunday's would do the trick. But game-to-game consistency has not been a strong point.

This was one of those all-around quality games.

"I know we've talked about it a lot since I've been here -- about putting yourself in good scoring position and someone will come through with a hit," interim manager Daren Brown said, "and that's what it looks like."

"That" in this case was the two-out, two-run single designated hitter Jose Lopez hit in the fifth inning that snapped a scoreless deadlock and Wilson's home run that counter-punched the two runs Tampa scored in the bottom of the fifth.

The blast to left-center was the 34th home run surrendered by Shields, setting a single-season club record.

"In the at-bats I have had against him this year," Wilson said, "he pretty much has started me out with fastballs in on every at-bat. With guys on base, I thought he might try to sneak a changeup on me early, but my mind-set was to look for a fastball and make it be elevated a little bit.

"Sure enough, he started me with that fastball in. As far as hitting it, I got it on the right spot, but I didn't know if it was going to get out. Of all the games I have played here, that's the first one I have hit out.

"I hit it in the right spot."

The Rays were in position to strike back quickly in the bottom of the seventh when back-to-back singles knocked French from the game.

Brown went to Wright, and it turned out to be the right call.

A routine fly ball to center field and an ensuing double play took care of the Rays' final scoring threat of the game.

"Those guys are playing for a championship, and those are the games you want to be in," Wright said. "Those are fun."

Wright fed pinch-hitter John Jaso a sinker that became a 4-6-3 double play.

"I wanted to throw the ball in the middle, have it sink and get the batter to hit the top of the ball," Wright said.

Mission accomplished.

The Mariners' 10-hit offense included two knocks apiece from Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins and Justin Smoak. Rookie Matt Mangini, playing third base for the first time, walked, scored a run and drove in a run with a single in the seventh inning -- his first career RBI.

Cortes, making his second appearance in the series, was more impressive than the first, and that was no easy task.

He struck out all three batters he faced in the eighth inning, topping out at 99 mph.

"He throws easy cheese," Wilson said. "He is really impressive. He hasn't been scared of anything. He has come right out, trusted his fastball and thrown it over the plate.

"I mean, you can tell by some of the swings they were taking up there trying to hit his fastball. But when you have that kind of stuff, that's what you have to do."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.