While facing Felix Hernandez to open a road trip isn't exactly ideal, the Tampa Bay Rays could be catching Seattle's staff ace at the right time following his first outing without a strikeout in six years.
As Hernandez seeks his first win in more than a month for the Mariners, the slumping Rays hope to recover from a dismal homestand to win for the fifth time in six road games Monday night.Since going 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA with 39 strikeouts in his first four starts, Hernandez (3-1, 2.73 ERA) is 0-1 with a 3.70 ERA and 14 strikeouts in his last four for the Mariners (19-18).The right-hander allowed a season-high 11 hits and four runs over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-4, 10-inning victory at Oakland on Wednesday. It marked the first time since Aug. 19, 2008, that he didn't strike out a batter."It doesn't bother me, but I'm shocked," Hernandez told the team's official website. "No strikeouts. Not a good breaking ball, not a good changeup -- that's what happens when you don't have good stuff."The four-time All-Star appears to have a solid opportunity to pick up his first win since April 11 with a seemingly favorable matchup. He's 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA in eight career home meetings with Tampa Bay (16-22).After totaling 10 runs and hitting .171 with runners in scoring position while dropping the first four games on their homestand, the last-place Rays scored 12 times and had 19 hits to split the final two versus Cleveland.Evan Longoria went 2 for 4 and Matt Joyce was 2 for 5 with a home run in Sunday's 6-5 loss. Longoria has gone 5 for 11 in his last three games, while Joyce is hitting .368 at home -- but just .182 on the road."We're getting lucky with the teams in the division right now not playing as well as they can play also, and so we're able to hang around," Longoria said. "But I think it's not going to happen for very long, so we've got to figure it out quickly."The Rays totaled 26 runs and hit .284 with eight homers to win four of five road games prior to their homestand. However, they've lost four of their last five in Seattle.Aside from a rough first outing, Cesar Ramos (1-1, 2.96) has been effective since joining Tampa Bay's starting rotation. He's 1-0 with a 1.77 ERA while allowing 13 hits over 20 1/3 innings in his last four starts.The left-hander did not factor in the decision Wednesday after giving up two runs and three hits over a season-high 5 2/3 innings in a 4-3 home loss to Baltimore.Ramos has struggled when he's faced Seattle, allowing seven runs and 10 hits over 7 1/3 innings in five relief appearances.Seattle had totaled five runs over a 2-2 stretch -- which followed a season-high five-game winning streak -- before breaking through with 11 hits and three home runs -- two by Dustin Ackley and one by Kyle Seager -- in Sunday's 9-7 home loss to Kansas City.Ackley has gone 4 for 6 with three home runs in his last two games, while Seager is 9 for 21 with six homers and 13 RBIs in his last six at Safeco Field.
Cesar Ramos has yet to surrender a hit against his slider in 2014 (22 plate appearances) and is striking batters out 40.9 percent of the time. Justin Smoak has just one hit in 17 plate appearances that have ended with a slider this year.