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Tampa Bay Rays win seventh straight game, 4-1 over Seattle Mariners

B.J. Upton bumps fists in the dugout after putting the Rays up 3-0 in the fourth with a two-run homer, his third in three games.

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B.J. Upton bumps fists in the dugout after putting the Rays up 3-0 in the fourth with a two-run homer, his third in three games.

SEATTLE — Okay, so it hasn't been all Evan Longoria.

With Longoria out of the lineup to rest for the first time since his return from the disabled list last Tuesday, the Rays kept rolling anyway, beating the Mariners 4-1 Monday night to extend their winning streak to a season-high seven games.

And the formula was similar. They grabbed an early lead, scoring all four in the fourth, including a loud two-run homer from B.J. Upton. They got another solid start, Alex Cobb allowing only four hits over seven solid innings. And they let the bullpen finish it off, Fernando Rodney logging his MLB-leading 37th save.

"It's a good run,'' Upton said. "We have to keep doing what we're doing.''

The win improved the Rays to 63-52, matching their season high of 11 games over .500 while maintaining their lead in the American League wild-card race and their five-game deficit in the East. The seven-game streak matched their longest in one season under Joe Maddon, and the second longest in one season in franchise history.

"We got on top and we held on to it,'' Maddon said.

As they did during the three games in Minnesota, the Rays struck first, rapping five consecutive hits in the fourth. By the end of the night they were in double-digits in hits for a fifth straight game, the first time they'd done that since 2008.

"They say hitting's contagious, and that's the way it seems to be right now,'' Upton said. "We're swinging the bats well right now. It's kind of something we've been waiting on all year, and hopefully we continue to do that the last couple months.''

Sam Fuld, starting because Longoria was not, got them going by singling to right and stealing second, and Desmond Jennings, continuing his hot August, promptly singled him in.

Then Upton, who took Maddon up on his offer of a DH day, continued his power trip with another loud and long homer, a 410-foot blast to left. That made for 1,268 feet of homers in three days, as he hit a pair on Saturday (425, 433 feet).

The Rays weren't quite done, as Matt Joyce singled, extending his career-high hitting streak to a Rays season-best 12 games, and Ben Zobrist, who looked good enough again at shortstop that Maddon referred to him afterward as "Cal Zobrist" in a nod to Cal Ripken - doubled him home as part of his three-hit night.

Maddon said he felt Cobb was the key to the game and "typical with him, he got better as the game was in progress.'' He was sharp early, throwing first-pitch strikes to the first 20 hitters, and joking he was jinxed by teammate David Price.

Cobb retired the first eight before allowing a two-out single in the third, but the Mariners eventually got to him as Trayvon Robinson opened the fifth with a drive to deep left-center for a triple then scored on Eric Thames' single.

But Cobb limited the damage and rolled through seven innings, mixing his fastball, curveball and changeup, to maintain the Rays' run of stellar starts.

"It's fun,'' Cobb said. "We're having a great time. Everyone is doing well so everyone is in high spirits. We're on a good roll right now.''

Cobb's spot in the rotation is somewhat tenuous with Jeff Niemann working his way back from a mid-May broken leg, but he is making an impressive bid, posting his third straight win to improve to 7-8, 4.08.

More impressively, it was his fourth consecutive start of working seven innings, having allowed 3-1-1-1 runs. Until this stretch, he had not had more than two straight seven-inning starts at any pro level.

"That's the biggest thing as a pitcher, no matter what the outcome of the game you want to eat up innings,'' he said. "So being able to go out there and set it up for (Joel) Peralta and Rodney to close the door, it's a good feeling walking off.''

For a week now, the Rays have all been feeling good.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

Rays 4

Mariners 1

Tampa Bay Rays win seventh straight game, 4-1 over Seattle Mariners 08/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 2:26am]
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