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SEA@TB: Joyce cranks a solo home run to right

ST. PETERSBURG -- On a night when most Rays fans were wondering what the offense would resemble without Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce took care of business in leading the Rays to a 3-1 win over the Mariners at Tropicana Field with a crowd of 9,972 watching.

The Rays have now won seven in a row at Tropicana Field, where they have a 10-1 record on the season.

Shortly before Tuesday night's game, the Rays learned that Longoria would be out with a partially torn left hamstring. Joyce hit in the No. 3 slot, a position normally reserved for Longoria.

"I feel very comfortable hitting in the middle of the order, or wherever it may be," Joyce said. "I'm pretty much up for anything. They try to put you in the best situation possible and obviously they want to win games, so I'm open for anything."

Joyce began the night with a bang when he tripled with one out in the first off Mariners starter Hector Noesi to drive home Ben Zobrist. Luke Scott's sacrifice fly to left gave the Rays a 2-0 lead.

Joyce's blast appeared headed for the other side of the wall in center, but stayed in the park.

"It's weird how that works, isn't it?" Joyce said. "I told [hitting coach] Derek [Shelton] I'm going to have to work out a little bit more. But it worked out well the next at-bat."

In Joyce's next at-bat, he hit a solo home run off Noesi that gave the Rays a 3-1 lead, which held.

"Longo has very big shoes to fill," Joyce said. "And I think the guys kind of realize we've got to pick it up. It's just part of the game. Injuries are part of the game. Guys go through slumps and you have to pick each other up. That's what a good team does. I think we know that's the case. And we did it tonight. We've got our work cut out for us, but the great thing is we have a deep lineup and we have a lot of guys who can drive the ball."

Rays hitters collected just three hits on the night, but four Rays pitchers made the three runs produced by those three hits work just fine.

Matt Moore started for the Rays and gave up just one run, which came via Michael Saunders' bat when he led off the Mariners' third with a home run to right. The Rays left-hander picked up his first win of the season, even though he went just five innings.

"The five-and-dive wins don't feel as good as saving the bullpen, but they were outstanding tonight after being used quite a bit recently," Moore said. "We'll take it. We're playing very well right now, so it's good."

Burke Badenhop, who had some trouble in the Texas series, bounced back with two scoreless frames to kick-start a dazzling bullpen effort.

"You kind of get the momentum going the right way, you cool their bats off a little bit and it gets a little bit easier and easier," Badenhop said. "You get to the later innings and they haven't scored in a while and that two-run deficit seems a little bigger."

Joel Peralta continued the nice roll that he's been on by pitching a scoreless eighth. The veteran reliever has not allowed a run in his last nine outings and he's allowed just three hits during that stretch.

Fernando Rodney then closed the game in overpowering fashion by striking out the three hitters he faced to earn his eighth save of the season in eight opportunities.

The Mariners went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night, leaving them 0-for-30 with runners in scoring position over the past four games.

"We're missing that big hit right now," Saunders said. "We are getting runners on base and putting ourselves in a position to put runs on the board, but we're missing that big hit. We're going through a tough stretch right now these last few games.

"We've also run into some pretty good pitching, as well. Nonetheless, we've put up plenty of runs off good pitchers in the past and we know we can do it. "

The Rays have won their last six games against the Mariners dating back to July 31 at Seattle, the longest winning streak the Rays have ever held against the Mariners.

Despite the Mariners' frustrations, Rays manager Joe Maddon complimented both teams for their play in Tuesday night's game.

"It was a nice, kind of an old school type baseball game," Maddon said.

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