Tampa Bay Sports Day

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays Begin Series at Seattle

By BILL CHASTAIN
The Rays and Mariners will begin a three-game series on Monday at Safeco Field.

The Mariners occupy first place in the American League West and will arrive home riding the momentum of a winning road trip. Meanwhile, the Rays swept the first series of their two-stop road trip.

The Mariners are just 5-7 at Safeco Field this season, though they did go 4-2 in their last homestand.

Felix Hernandez will start for the Mariners. The King remains one of the top pitchers in baseball and will be looking to make history, as he’s tied with Jamie Moyer for the franchise lead in career wins at 145.

“I can’t think of too many that are better,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “… You talk about guys evolving. … Felix, you know, he’s pitching 90, 91 [mph] right now. But the movement he creates on pitches and how he locates is second to none.”

Matt Moore will start for the Rays and is aware of the presence of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano in the Mariners’ lineup.

“You just have to be careful and try to make sure there aren’t a lot of runners on when they bat so you can challenge them and be aggressive in the zone,” Moore said. “Those guys are obviously pretty good hitters.”

Three things to know about this game:

• Hernandez is 7-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the Rays, and the Mariners are 12-3 in those starts. That includes a perfect game against the Rays in 2012, a shutout of the Rays last year on four-hitter, and he posted a career-high 15 strikeout game against them in ’14.

• Because the Rays will start lefties in the first two games of the series, the Mariners will go with their right-handed platoon at first base in Dae-Ho Lee and right-fielder Franklin Gutierrez. Lee is a big (250-pound) 33-year-old rookie from Korea (played last four years in Japan) who has four homers in 36 at-bats and had two homers, including two-run game-winner, in a 9-8 win at Oakland on Wednesday.

• Moore will be pitching with an extra day of rest after having his worst outing of the season when he allowed seven runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday. The left-hander likes having the extra day.

“It’s good,” Moore said. “I remember at times you don’t want it. But understanding what things are probably going to feel like in September. You just have to kind of go with it as it comes.”

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.