Seattle enjoyed a walk-off 3-2 win on Tuesday and is 1-1 at the front end of a nine-game homestand. The Mariners have won eight of their last nine games at Safeco Field and have a good chance of improving on that mark with ace Felix Hernandez scheduled to start on Wednesday.
Hernandez (10-5) is coming off a rough outing, allowing five runs in seven innings against the Angels.
"He had a really good breaking ball and a good fastball, but the changeup wasn't quite what it normally is," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Still, Hernandez is one of the best starters in the AL. Over his last 10 starts, the right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.73 ERA. He leads the Majors with nine starts allowing one run or less in eight or more innings. One of those starts came against the Rays on April 30 at Tropicana Field.
The Rays (63-53) are 7-1 since third baseman Evan Longoria returned from the disabled list on Aug. 7.
Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to make his 22nd start for Tampa Bay this year. He is 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA but is 3-1 in his last four outings. Part of the right-hander's recent success has been a decrease in walks.
"I had a stretch there where I had zero to one walk for about four starts," Hellickson said. "I only had two the last game, but they were both leading off the inning. So try and stay away from that and get ahead of guys."
Hellickson said he looks forward to going up against Hernandez for the second time this season, though he understands there's very little margin for error.
"You know from the start if you give up a run, that might be the ballgame," Hellickson said. "You just have to go out there and make your pitches. The main thing for me is to worry about their lineup and not him."
While Hernandez allowed one run over eight innings when he faced off against Hellickson back in April, the Tampa Bay starter countered with seven innings of one-run ball as the Rays won, 3-2.
Rays: Zobrist feeling at home at shortstop
Ben Zobrist is settling in at shortstop once again for the Rays and started at the position for the fifth time in six games on Tuesday.
Zobrist broke in with the Rays in 2006 primarily as a shortstop, before moving to second base and the outfield. Moving forward the season, he could become the club's everyday shortstop.
"It's one of my favorite positions, for sure," Zobrist said. "If it was permanent, I would love it. If it's for a period of time, I'm fine with that too. Whatever works best for the team is probably going to work out what's best for me, probably, in the end."
Rays manager Joe Maddon and his coaching staff asked Zobrist if he would be comfortable playing at third base or first base but he said he was not comfortable at the corner positions.
"It takes more reps than I've had there to get comfortable," Zobrist said. "But shortstop is a little different, because I've had a ton of reps in the past at shortstop."
The move back to shortstop has coincided with a hot stretch at the plate for Zobrist. He is 7-for-22 (.318) with two doubles and two runs in his last five starts at shortstop.
Mariners: Smoak back in big leagues
The Mariners recalled first baseman Justin Smoak from Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday, 20 games after he was sent to the Minors to work on his swing. Smoak was called up to fill the roster spot that opened when Mike Carp was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin.
Smoak doubled in his first at-bat and later scored. He drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth and finished 1-for-2 with a walk.
Smoak began the season with the Mariners as the starting first baseman, but lost his job after struggling at the plate. Seattle optioned Smoak to Tacoma on July 23 after he hit .189 with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs in 90 games with the Mariners. In the Minors, Smoak worked to shorten his swing.
"Everybody is trying to get everything right, day in and day out, but I had some time down there, wasn't really looking at stats, it was more of just trying to get it to where I feel comfortable," Smoak said. "Still a work in progress, but this past couple weeks is probably the best I've felt in a long time."
As for Carp, he's on the DL for the third time in 2012. He felt some discomfort in his groin on Sunday, when he reached for a ball at first base in the fifth inning against the Angels. Carp is hitting .206 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 49 games.
Longoria is 6-for-16 (.375) in his career against Hernandez with one RBI and three walks, though he's struck out seven times.
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager has hit safely in eight straight games at Safeco Field, going 14-for-30 during the stretch.