ST. PETERSBURG -- Blake Beavan, making his second start since getting recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, tossed an impressive four-hitter over eight innings against the Rays on Sunday as Seattle closed out a successful road trip with a 2-1 victory at Tropicana Field.
The Mariners went 5-2 against the Royals and Rays, and now head to Safeco Field for a 10-game homestand beginning with the Yankees on Monday. They'll try to carry the momentum of back-to-back pitching gems against Tampa Bay, with Beavan following Jason Vargas with identical 2-1 wins.
After breaking out the bats in Kansas City, the Mariners took two of three from the Rays despite hitting just .159 and scoring seven runs in 32 innings.
"It was a real good road trip," said manager Eric Wedge, whose team improved to 42-55 overall and 25-28 away from home. "The two losses we did have were walkoffs, so they were tight ballgames throughout. These guys played tough."
Beavan came through with a standout performance Sunday as the big right-hander held the Rays to two hits over his final seven frames to outduel fellow 23-year-old Matt Moore.
"That was my best start of the year, for sure, especially up here," Beavan said. "I had a bunch of good ones down in Tacoma because I was throwing my curveball. That's pretty much what I did today and that was the result. That's what happens when you mix pitches up."
Beavan improved to 5-6 while lowering his ERA to 5.54. He threw 101 pitches with no walks and five strikeouts before turning the game over to closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who recorded his 10th save while pitching his third straight day.
"I felt really good," said Wilhelmsen, who got Hideki Matsui to pop out to end the game with two runners on. "Obviously it's a dome so you can't feel the weather outside, but when it's warm, it's easier to loosen up. I'm feeling strong."
The Mariners followed their familiar recent pattern by getting on the board early against Moore, but then struggling to add on. They scored runs in the first and second innings, but Moore and reliever Kyle Farnsworth ended the game by retiring the last 20 Mariners batters.
Michael Saunders created what held up as the winning tally in the second when he bunted his way on against Moore, then stole second even after getting picked off, beating a wide throw by first baseman Carlos Pena. Brendan Ryan then drove him in with a double down the left-field line for the 2-1 lead.
"I was walking up to the plate and saw the right side was playing me way back," Saunders said. "He's a pretty tough lefty, so I just figured if they were giving it to me and I can lay it down like I did, it's probably going to be a base hit."
As for his bolt to second after appearing to be picked off?
"I thought I had a read on it," Saunders said. "Obviously I didn't. Luckily he lifted high and gave me a little bit of time and when he picked me off, I just ran straight for the shortstop because he ended up covering the base. I just tried to force Pena to throw around me."
Wedge loved the aggressive approach by his young center fielder, who also drove in the two first-inning runs that stood up in Saturday's victory.
"He got on base with his speed, then he's breaking and they throw behind him, but he just exploded to second base," Wedge said. "I love the way he went right into the bag. It was a good hard slide and that's just him taking advantage of his skill set and his mindset, which we've seen all year."
Doubles by Casper Wells and Jesus Montero provided the first-inning run, giving the Mariners 12 first-inning runs in the seven games on the road trip.
Wells ripped a two-bagger down the right-field line in his first at-bat in the leadoff role this season. He was thrown out at third when Ichiro Suzuki followed with a bunt right back at Moore on the mound. But Ichiro then stole second and third and scored when Montero smoked a double to left-center.
Montero went 2-for-4, finishing off a torrid road trip during which he batted .462 (12-for-26) with nine RBIs while raising his average to .261. The rookie continues feasting on left-handed pitchers, hitting .369 for the season against southpaws and .206 against righties.
The quick starts paid dividends for Seattle, which scored 22 of its 38 runs on the trip in the first two innings.
"It's certainly nice to get momentum on our side," Saunders said. "And today was the best I've ever seen Beavan pitch. It couldn't have come at a better time. Typically two runs isn't enough, but today it was. This was a really good series win."
The back-to-back 2-1 losses left the Rays frustrated as they fell to 49-47.
"That goes without even saying," Rays right fielder Matt Joyce said. "To lose two to Seattle ... nothing to take away from Seattle, but they don't have the best of records. Usually if you have a better team, then you've got to take advantage of those opportunities. You're going to have to tip your cap. They did a great job of just really shutting us out."