ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Robinson Cano delivered the biggest hit of the day for the Seattle Mariners, but not before a perfectly executed drag bunt set up things against one of the best pitchers in baseball.
James Jones went 3 for 4, including a bunt single that wound up in the middle of three converging players and loaded the bases for Cano, whose third-inning, opposite-field double drove in two runs in Monday’s 3-0 victory over David Price and the sputtering Tampa Bay Rays.
“We’re a team that has to do anything to win a game,” Cano said. “We don’t have three or four or five guys that’ll hit 30 home runs, so we’ve got to play the little game, do the little things.”
Five Seattle pitchers combined on a five-hitter, blanking the punchless Rays for the second straight days. The Mariners extended their scoreless streak to 19 innings and won for the eighth time in nine games.
“Our last seven or eight starts have been pretty darn good. Our starters have given us everything we’ve asked them and probably a little bit more,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “With that our bullpen is even better.”
The Rays, who’ve made the playoffs four or the past six seasons, have lost 13 of 14 and are saddled with the worst record in the major leagues at 24-41. The last time they were 17 games under .500 was the end of 2007, the final year they were known as the Devil Rays.
“Right now, we’re the worst team. I don’t anticipate finishing like that … but right now, we’ve earned that position,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
“Do I believe we can turn this around? Absolutely,” he said. “But right now, if you’re a baseball fan watching us, and you look at everything, you have to consider us the worst team.”
Cano’s big hit came on an 0-2 pitch during a three-run third inning against Price (4-6), who struck out 10 in eight innings. The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner has dropped three straight decisions and hasn’t won in nine starts since beating Minnesota on April 22.
“It just goes to show you how good this guy is,” McClendon said of Cano. “Against one of the toughest lefties in baseball and down like that. … That was a huge hit for us.”
Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez didn’t allow a run, but failed to get through the fifth inning to qualify for the victory. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed four hits and walked five in 4 2/3 innings.
Joe Beimel (1-1) retired the only two batters he faced to get the victory, and Fernando Rodney worked a perfect ninth for his 18th save in 20 opportunities.
The Rays were shut out for the AL-high ninth time overall.
Seattle finished a 6-1 road trip. The Mariners won three straight over Tampa Bay after dropping the opener of the four-game series.
Price allowed three runs and seven hits and walked one. He has the best strikeout to walk ratio in baseball, but has also yielded a major league-leading 105 hits 99 2/3 innings.
The Rays stranded seven runners and were 0 for 5 with men in scoring position through four innings against Ramirez, who entered the game with a 6.82 ERA.
The frustration continued in the fifth, when Ramirez gave up a two-out double to James Loney and walked Ben Zobrist before McClendon turned to his bullpen.
Beimel fanned pinch-hitter Jerry Sands, ending the threat and eliciting smattering of groans and boos from the crowd of 10,400 at Tropicana Field.
“At some point, we have to get our bats alive,” Maddon said.
“The effort is wonderful. The work is great,” the manager added. “The hits aren’t there.”
NOTES: Struggling Grant Balfour is out as the Rays’ closer. Maddon said the team instead will close games by committee. … Mariners 1B Justin Smoak (sore left leg) and OF Michael Saunders (sore right shoulder) were out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game. … Rays rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi (2-6) will go against St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright (8-3) in the opener of a two-game interleague series Tuesday night. Odorizzi grew up 35 minutes from St. Louis and called his start against the Cardinals a “special occasion.” … In a matchup of former teammates with Rakuten of Japan’s Pacific League, Mariners RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-2) and Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (9-1) will start in the opener of a three-game series in Seattle.