ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tom Murphy is on a power surge unprecedented for a Seattle catcher, and it is coming at a bad time for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Murphy hit a tiebreaking homer, his sixth in the last four games, in the sixth inning Tuesday night to lift the Mariners to a 7-4 win over the Rays.
Murphy's 16th homer of the season came off Jalen Beeks (5-3) after a walk to Kyle Seager. Murphy became the first Mariners catcher to homer in four straight games. He said it is a matter of "staying within the strike zone," like he did for two months in Triple-A back in 2016.
"I can see it like it was yesterday," Murphy said. "It was the best I've ever hit in my life, that's for sure. ... I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but it feels like everything I hit was hard hit."
That's the same way it looks now to Seattle manager Scott Servais while watching Murphy and Seager, who also homered.
"Those guys are really locked in right now, and it's fun to watch," Servais said.
Tommy Milone (3-7) got the win after giving up four runs in five innings of relief, helping Seattle to its sixth victory in eight games. Matt Magill pitched the ninth for his second save in two tries.
The Rays, who have dropped to 33-31 at home by losing three of five games to last-place teams on their current homestand, began the day one game ahead of Oakland for the AL's second wild card. The Athletics hosted the New York Yankees later.
"We've been in a rut here for a little while. To be honest, it's been a grind here since we've gotten back home," said Rays manager Kevin Cash.
"We're not playing good baseball right now, that's fair to say," said center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. "I think it all stems from our offense. We just don't have a lot of guys locked in right now, to be quite honest."
Seager's 17th home run off Rays opener Diego Castillo drove in Seattle's first two runs. It was Seager's eighth homer during a 14-game hitting streak, and he drove in another run with a double in the seventh.
Willy Adames and Kiermaier had back-to-back hits in the second inning and again in the fourth, helping Tampa Bay take a 4-2 lead off Milone.
Austin Nola's two-out double brought the Mariners back to a 4-4 tie in the fifth.
Cash said two-way player Brendan McKay, optioned to Triple-A Durham after allowing seven runs over two innings in Monday's 9-3 loss to Seattle, will likely be called back up around Sept. 1. "We've got a lot of confidence in Brendan, he's going to be really good for us," Cash said. "He's just hitting a little bit of a speed bump where he lost his way with his command." The lefty was 1-3 with an 8.69 ERA in last his five starts after allowing a combined three runs over his first three big league outings.
MARINER PITCHING PLANS
The Mariners will call up 23-year-old LHP Justus Sheffield for his first major league start Friday night against Toronto. With RHP Felix Hernandez plugged back into the rotation Saturday, LHP Yusei Kikuchi will be bypassed this time around after pitching a shutout on Sunday. Servais explained that the plan to skip Kikuchi for one turn was made before his complete-game shutout against the Blue Jays.
Mariners: Hernandez, who last pitched on May 11, has appeared in four rehab games after recovering from shoulder soreness. ... OF Domingo Santana was placed on the injured list with right elbow inflammation. ... OF Jake Fraley, called up to take Santana's spot on the roster, will be in the lineup Wednesday, Servais said.
Rays: AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell (left elbow bone chip surgery) is throwing at around 90 feet on level ground. ... OF Avisail Garcia (right oblique strain) ran the bases and could be back this weekend. ... INF Brandon Lowe (right shin bruise) went 0 for 4 in his first rehab game at Triple-A Durham.
RHP Charlie Morton (13-5, 2.77) will pitch Wednesday for the Rays in the season series finale against Mariners opener Cory Gearrin, a right-hander. LHP Wade LeBlanc (6-7, 5.40) will follow Gearin. In his last three starts, Morton has struck out 29 and walked none.