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Felix struggles in short start against Rays

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

ST. PETERSBURG -- A Mariners rotation with the lowest ERA in the Majors for nearly the last month took a hit on Saturday as Felix Hernandez was roughed up in a three-inning outing in a 7-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Hernandez held the Rays to one run over eight innings in his previous start in Seattle on Sunday, but gave up seven hits and six runs (five earned) in a 53-pitch struggle as the Rays snapped an eight-game losing streak.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- A Mariners rotation with the lowest ERA in the Majors for nearly the last month took a hit on Saturday as Felix Hernandez was roughed up in a three-inning outing in a 7-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Hernandez held the Rays to one run over eight innings in his previous start in Seattle on Sunday, but gave up seven hits and six runs (five earned) in a 53-pitch struggle as the Rays snapped an eight-game losing streak.

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"Felix's stuff wasn't as good today," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "It was pretty evident right from the get-go. … The life on his fastball was a little concerning today. He needs to have separation on the fastball to be effective at 89-90. Today it didn't even really get into that range. But it's not all about velocity. It's about locating it and that really wasn't on today, either."

Video: SEA@TB: Servais on the rough start for Hernandez

It was Hernandez's shortest outing since a two-inning start on April 25 last year, after which he went on the disabled list for two months with bursitis in his right shoulder, and just the eighth time in 389 career starts that he's gone three innings or less.

"It was a little different [than Sunday's start]," Hernandez said. "I was making good pitches, but they found some holes and there's nothing you can do about that. I thought I had pretty good stuff, they just put a lot of balls in play. There was some tough luck."

Video: SEA@TB: Hernandez finishes off the 2nd with a K

Hernandez owns a 6-5 record, but his ERA of 5.70 is the highest of his 14-year career. The six-time All-Star's highest ERA for a complete season is 4.52 in his first full year in the Majors in 2006.

Nelson Cruz crushed his 12th homer of the season for the Mariners and Jean Segura went 2-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch to hike his average to .342, but young lefty Blake Snell held Seattle to two runs (one earned) on seven hits over six innings. The Mariners were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position for the game.

Video: SEA@TB: Cruz belts his 12th homer of 2018

Snell struck out the first seven Mariners and totaled 12 strikeouts in six frames on Sunday in Seattle in a game Hernandez and the Mariners wound up winning, 2-1. He had just one strikeout this time, but improved to 8-3 with a 2.30 ERA with his fourth straight win.

"The guy has great stuff," catcher Mike Zunino said. "Just like the Felix thing, you're seeing a guy for the second [straight] time and knowing what he likes to go to and how he attacks guys, sort of helps us hitters out. We were able to have some good at-bats, but not sneak enough across to really help out or break anything open."

The Mariners have still won 16 of their last 21 games and are in a virtual tie with the Astros atop the American League West, after Houston's 4-3 win over the Rangers in Arlington on Saturday night. Seattle had beaten Tampa Bay in its previous five meetings this season by a combined six runs.

Left-hander Roenis Elias allowed just two hits and a run over four innings in his second appearance as a long reliever and Mike Morin tossed a scoreless frame in his Mariners debut.

"I thought Elias threw the ball great," Servais said. "He had great life on his fastball and a good changeup, which was nice to see. He continues to impress when he's out there."

SEGURA SURVIVES A SCARE
Snell hadn't hit a batter in the first 296 1/3 innings of his career until hammering Segura in the hand with a 96 mph fastball in the second inning. Mariners batters have now been hit an MLB-leading 37 times (the Cubs are second at 32). But Seattle pitchers have also hit opposing batters 37 times, which is second in MLB behind the Rangers (45). Segura stayed in the game and scored two of Seattle's three runs.

"We actually got lucky there," Servais said. "My first thought when I was leaving the dugout to go check on him was that it wasn't going to be good. But it tested out, his strength was fine. It just hit him right on the side [of the hand] and he had good at-bats after that."

Video: SEA@TB: Segura gets hit on hand, stays in the game

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mariners had cut the lead to 6-3 in the seventh and had a runner on second when Ryon Healy pushed a foul ball down the right field line. Rays rookie first baseman Jake Bauers, right fielder Carlos Gomez and the Rays' on-field bullpen all converged at the same spot, resulting in a nasty-looking collision. But Gomez somehow held onto the ball for the third out and both players walked away in one piece, albeit slightly shaken.

Video: SEA@TB: Gomez charges in, makes a diving grab

HE SAID IT
"It was an off day. I just want to see consistency and give us a chance to win. He does, too. There's no doubt, nobody wants to help this club more than Felix, but it just didn't happen today." -- Servais, on Hernandez

MITEL REPLAYS OF THE DAY
Zunino threw out speedster Mallex Smith trying to steal second in the eighth to help out Morin. The Rays challenged the call, but the replay didn't show that Smith definitively beat the tag of second baseman Dee Gordon and the call stood. Zunino has now thrown out 41.7 percent of attempted basestealers (10 of 24) this season, the second-highest mark in the Majors.

Video: SEA@TB: Zunino throws Smith out after review

Hernandez didn't allow any home runs, but he came close. So close that it required a crew-chief review to determine Smith's third-inning smash to right-center was a triple off the top of the wall and not a two-run homer. The hit initially was ruled a triple before the umpires gathered on the field and changed the call to a home run. That brought Servais out of the Mariners' dugout to ask for the crew-chief review and -- upon a closer look -- the call was overturned. Smith scored anyway when Christian Arroyo promptly drove him in with a single to give the Rays a 6-1 lead.

Video: SEA@TB: Smith triples off the wall after review

UP NEXT
James Paxton (5-1, 2.95 ERA) closes out the four-game series against the Rays on Sunday at 10:10 a.m. PT against right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 3.27). Paxton has been sensational of late, going 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, including a no-hitter on May 8 at Toronto. The big lefty is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against the Rays.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, Jean Segura