Seattle took a short-lived lead against Tampa Bay on a rare home run and went into the eighth inning tied, but the Rays scored six in the final two frames to claim an 8-3 win in front of 14,627 at Safeco Field on Wednesday. The Mariners (11-16) have now dropped five in a row, their longest losing streak of the season.
Seattle struck first against Matt Garza, bringing two across in the fourth inning on a Franklin Gutierrez homer, but the Rays erased the deficit in the fifth against Cliff Lee, and Seattle couldn't muster any more offense.
"Offensively, it's the same story," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Guti hits the two-run home run and puts us up by two, and Cliff comes out and gives up two, and the offense goes back into its shell a little bit. We put so much pressure on the pitching staff because of the lack of offense.
"When we're throwing a guy like Cliff or Felix [Hernandez] or [Doug] Fister out there, those are the ballgames we need to win, and we've got to get better offensively."
In the fourth, first baseman Casey Kotchman provided the spark for Seattle's offense with a one-out double down the right-field line to end his 0-for-16 slide. Gutierrez stopped a much longer streak moments later, when he took a 95 mph fastball into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer.
That ended a string of 76 consecutive innings without a homer for the Mariners, which dated back to Gutierrez's solo shot against the White Sox on April 25. It was the second-longest drought in club history behind a dry spell of 129 2/3 innings in 1983, and Seattle has the fewest number of dingers in the Majors (10), one behind Houston and two behind White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko.
The frame was also the team's first with more than one run in 30 innings, but the Rays answered quickly.
Catcher Dioner Navarro legged out a double on a ground ball down the left-field line for the first extra-base hit against Lee this season. His first run allowed came one pitch later when right fielder Gabe Kapler hit a single to right-center.
The next batter, shortstop Jason Bartlett, hit a line-drive double to the left-field corner to score Kapler.
"I have to do a better job after we get the lead there in the fourth," said Lee, who added that the hits came off changeups he left over the plate. "We score two runs, then I go back out there and give up two runs to tie the game back up. I have to do a better job of keeping our team with the lead and getting us back in the dugout."
Lee got out of the inning without further damage, but he ran into more trouble in the eighth, when two RBI singles and a throwing error gave Tampa Bay the go-ahead runs. Lee wasn't as masterful as in his debut last week, allowing five runs (four earned) on 10 hits in eight innings.
He struck out five and walked none, and he said he felt strong after throwing 113 pitches, 83 for strikes.
Wakamatsu didn't fault Lee for the loss, instead placing the blame on an ineffective offense.
"Once he gave up those two, you could feel it in the dugout a little bit," Wakamatsu said. "The way we've been going, the offense has not done anything. I think it puts so much pressure on a pitcher to be perfect, but I thought he threw the ball pretty good."
His counterpart, Garza, picked up the win in eight innings. He gave up five hits, walked one and struck out five.
"You have to be on top of your game when you face a guy like [Lee]," Garza said. "The past few seasons, he's practically dominated with every team he's been on."
Reliever Sean White struggled mightily in relief, giving up three runs in one-third of an inning and walking three of the five batters he faced. The Mariners claimed back a run in the ninth, but left runners on the corners to end the game.
Shortstop Jack Wilson left the contest with pain behind his right knee after the third and was replaced by Josh Wilson. Uncertainty over Jack Wilson's status means the team may have to bring in reinforcements, especially since left fielder Milton Bradley's playing status is undetermined. He was in the dugout, but did not play because of personal issues.
"We'll talk about it in the morning and see what we can do," Wakamatsu said. "We might make a move tomorrow, but we don't know what that is yet."
Gutierrez was the bright spot for Seattle, going 2-for-4 at the plate. He's 6-for-11 in the past three games after ending a 1-for-15 slump, and he leads the team with a .343 average.
"You see it a little bit more in his patience," Wakamatsu said. "He's laying off some pitches that he went through that stretch where he was striking out quite a bit. For me, when a guy hits a home run opposite field, you know he's staying on it."
Mike McCall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.