SEATTLE — With closer Alex Colome unavailable due to heavy weekend use, Rays manager Kevin Cash knew he would have to deploy his bullpen differently on Monday, saying it would be "a good opportunity for some guys that we haven't seen to step up a little bit.''
And when starter Matt Moore, in another ineffective outing, couldn't get through the fifth against the Mariners, Cash had to get even more creative.
Which is how Dana Eveland ended up on the mound in the sixth inning of a tie game, and after he walked the first two batters, Steve Geltz replaced him and gave up three-run homer to Ketel Marte that was the difference in the 5-2 defeat.
"It's very frustrating,'' Geltz said. "It's heart-breaking to go out and do that today, especially with a tough battle.''
The loss ended the Rays' four-game winning streak and dropped them back to .500 at 15-15.
Of perhaps greater concern, it also exposed the backside of the bullpen, when Colome or Erasmo Ramirez or Xavier Cedeno aren't in the game.
"We've got to be able to get through that,'' Cash said. "Even tough it was a tie ball game, we had it set up pretty good to align it through and keep it tied. We just didn't.''
Eveland deserved some of the blame as he got the last out of the fifth with the bases loaded, but then, facing two lefties to start the sixth, walked No. 9 hitter Leonys Martin and leadoff man Nori Aoki. He said part of the problem is not being sharp when he comes out for a second inning of work.
"I know I'm better than that,'' he said. "I know I can do it. I've been in this game long enough, it's not like I get out there and I'm scared or I'm nervous or something like that. I just need to freaking figure it out.''
Geltz deserved the rest, leaving a first-pitch fastball up that Marte launched to over the right-centerfield fence. Geltz said he didn't know if Marte would be bunting (as Cash also thought) or swinging away, and he didn't know much about the 22-year-old who came up last year and displaced Brad Miller as the starting shortstop.
"I tried to stick to my game plan, up in the zone, aggressive, get a pop out or a fouled off bunt or something'' Geltz said. "And he hit it good.''
It was a bad night overall for the Rays, headlined by the third-inning departure of leading hitter Logan Forsythe, who sustained a bruised left shoulder after being struck by a Felix Hernandez pitch in the third.
Also, Moore threw two wild pitches, one of which led to a run, although catcher Hank Conger seemed complicit; Brandon Guyer was caught getting back late to second base and picked off second base; Evan Longoria made a great stop but an errant throw on a Robinson Cano hot shot that led to a run.
The Rays' history against Hernandez, especially in Seattle, was not good, including an August 2012 perfect game. So it didn't bode well when the Rays went hitless through the first three innings and was somewhat of a success that the two runs, on homers by Corey Dickerson and Longoria.
Still, Hernandez has now started against the Rays 11 times at Safeco Field and is 7-0 with a 1.67 ERA. And he became the Mariners all-time wins leader with his 146th.
Moore had another rough start for the Rays, allowing seven hits and four walks while lasting only 4 2/3 innings, though limiting the damage to two runs, including an impressive first-inning escape with runners on second and third and Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz up. He wasn't helped as two wild pitches eluded catcher Hank Conger.
"Not a good job tonight,'' Moore said, especially down about the two walks in the fifth that led to his departure after 98 pitches.
Since posting 1-0, 2.95 mark in first three starts, Moore is winless in his last four with a 6.35 ERA, allowing 26 hits and 11 walks in 22 2/3 innings.
"I go back to controlling the count,'' Cash said. "Matty, when he is pounding the strike zone and attacking the zone he is a different pitcher then when he has to pitch from behind. You can say that about all the pitchers, but it seems like it shows up more that way with Matt.''
Moore had a similar take: "Probably just falling behind and not taking back the at-bat. I've got to be better than that and go in the zone and make 'em earn it.''
Dickerson made sure the Rays weren't going to be blanked when he led off the fourth with an opposite-field homer, matching Steven Souza Jr. for the team lead with seven, and tying the score 1-1.
The Rays took the lead in the next inning with another homer, this time a two-out shot by Longoria, his sixth. Homers have been a large part of the Rays offense this season, as they came into the game with nearly 55 percent of their total runs (56 of 102) coming via home runs, second highest in the majors behind the Mets.
The Mariners played some small ball to get their first two runs. Marte doubled to lead off the third, went to third on an infield out and scored on Nelson Cruz's sac fly. Marte reached on infield single to start the fifth, went to third when Longoria made a tremendous diving stop of a Robinson Cano hot shot but an errant throw, and scored when Moore bounced a pitch that Conger couldn't handle.
Forsythe was batting in the third inning when he was hit, near the "F" on his nameplate, though he stayed in and moved up to second on a wild pitch. He headed onto the field to take his position for the bottom of the inning but felt enough discomfort that he left the game. X-rays were negative but he was sore and said he will be day to day.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays