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TOR@TB: Cobb gives up one run over seven innings

The Mariners have some momentum, but they've got nothing on the red-hot Rays.

The two teams open a three-game series on Monday night, and Seattle will look to build on a modest two-game winning streak.

Before topping the Angels in their past two games, the Mariners were struggling on their nine-game road trip, losing six of seven. Even with those victories on Saturday and Sunday, Seattle finished the road stint at 3-6.

But a return to Safeco Field could prove a boon for manager Eric Wedge's club, which went 8-2 in its last homestand.

"I felt like we got over the hump a little bit the last homestand, both offensively and win-loss wise," Wedge said on Sunday. "That was good. This has been a tough road trip with a lot of tough ballgames, some weird ballgames. We've had some tough losses, but that was a big win for us [Saturday] night.

"We're only 4-5 games removed from being one of the better clubs in baseball in the second half. If we play good all-around baseball like we did last night, you can win any game against any club. That's where we are."

The problem for Seattle in trying to do so is its opponent on Monday. Tampa Bay enters the series winners of six straight games, the last three of which kicked off its current 10-game road trip.

Pitching has keyed the Rays' run, and Alex Cobb will hope to continue it on Monday. If his recent performance is any indication, he should have a solid chance of giving his team a seventh straight victory.

The right-hander has a 2.14 ERA over his past three outings, and he's won back-to-back starts for the first time since May. In his last time out, Cobb held the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings, striking out seven in the process.

"That was the best curve I've seen all year from any of our pitchers," Rays manager Joe Maddon said after Cobb's last start. "That was a big league curveball. He threw his fastball for a strike, but that set up the changeup, the changeup worked off of that. ... I think his curveball set the whole game up for him."

Throwing in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field could aid Cobb even more, but if Seattle is playing as well as it did on its last homestand, the Rays starter will have his hands full.

Mariners: Saunders coming off woeful road trip
Given the Mariners' subpar road trip, it's unsurprising that most players didn't play their best. But center fielder Michael Saunders especially struggled, going just 2-for-34. His batting average fell from .260 to .242.

"He's in a tough stretch right now," Wedge said. "But he's competing. He gets mad and frustrated, but he's competing. His whole attitude is that next at-bat he's going to get 'em. You can feel that. He's not defeated, he's not accepting it. That's where he's at and I like that."

• To oppose Cobb, Seattle will send right-hander Blake Beavan to the mound. He's had mixed success against the Rays this season, giving up five runs in one outing but holding them to one over eight innings in his last start against Tampa Bay.

Rays: Howell surpasses Rodney's scoreless-innings streak
With no runs allowed in two-thirds of an inning Sunday, reliever J.P. Howell pushed his scoreless-innings streak to 22 2/3, besting fellow reliever Fernando Rodney's streak of 22 innings that ended on Wednesday. Howell is now in position to tie starter James Shields' franchise record of 23 consecutive scoreless innings.

• After tying a franchise record by going 10 straight games without recording an error, the Rays had three miscues on Sunday, snapping the streak in exorbitant fashion. But that doesn't change the fact that this team has done well in improving its defense over the season. Tampa Bay had 71 errors before the All-Star break, second-most in the Majors, but was tied for the fewest since the break with seven going into Sunday.

Worth noting
• Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez suffered a setback in his comeback from a concussion. The return of headaches prevented him from beginning a rehab assignment for Class A Everett on Sunday as scheduled.

• Rays designated hitter Luke Scott began a rehab assignment for his strained right oblique on Saturday. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for Class A Charlotte.

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