Tampa Bay Rays

Rays end three-game losing streak

SEATTLE — Carl Crawford had four hits and Evan Longoria had three to back the strong pitching of rookie Jeff Niemann, and the Tampa Bay Rays finally scored big without a home run in a 9-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners Wednesday night.

Making his fifth career start, the 6-foot-9 Niemann allowed just three hits and two earned runs before tiring noticeably and leaving with one out in the sixth. He didn't allow a hit until giving up a homer to Jose Lopez with none out in the fifth.

Carlos Pena and Longoria each had two RBIs as last season's worst-to-first AL champions won for only the second time in eight games. For those snickering at Tampa Bay's slow start: The Rays (6-9) have the same record they had after 15 games in 2008.

The Rays' nine runs came on 15 hits, none a home run. Tampa Bay entered Wednesday with 32 of its 64 runs coming from homers, the highest percentage in the major leagues.

Longoria's double in the fourth gave him 100 career RBIs in the reigning AL rookie of the year's 135th game. The only active players to get to 100 RBIs more quickly were Ryan Braun (118 games) and Albert Pujols (131).

Niemann (1-2), the only rookie on Tampa Bay's roster and fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft, did not allow a baserunner until shortstop Jason Bartlett threw high to first base for an error on a chopper by Adrian Beltre leading off the fifth.

Niemann then walked Ronny Cedeno, and Lopez homered just into Seattle's bullpen beyond left-center field. That trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 7-3.

It didn't take long for the Rays to make Mariners fill-in starter Chris Jakubauskas (1-2) look more like the former independent league nomad and women's shoe salesman he was several years ago, and less like the 29-year-old who excelled in his first major league start last week against the Angels.

Crawford and Longoria singled. Pena doubled them home, and Pat Burrell scored Pena with another single. It was 3-0 after five batters.

Left fielder Endy Chavez caught Jason Bartlett's drive with the bases loaded a few feet in front of the wall to end the inning.

B.J. Upton, playing for the first time since injuring his leg on Sunday, led off the second with a double, advanced on the second of Crawford's four singles and scored on a sacrifice fly by Longoria.

Tampa Bay went up 5-0 in the third on a single by Ben Zobrist and double by Akinori Iwamura.

In the fourth, Crawford hit a chopper single that fill-in second baseman Ronny Cedeno couldn't handle. Pena doubled him home.

And in the fifth against Sean White, Iwamura reached when shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt couldn't field his chopper for an error. He moved to second on the back end of a double steal and scored on a single by Bartlett.

Jakubauskas, who spent 4½ years in the independent leagues making as little as $700 a month until 2007, allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in 3 1-3 innings. He walked three, threw two wild pitches, struck out one and was left shaking his head on the bench.

The outing tied for Seattle's shortest of the season with Ryan Rowland-Smith, whom Jakubauskas is replacing. Rowland-Smith will be on the disabled list for at least another week after he had fluid drained from his pitching elbow Wednesday.

Seattle had other pains. The Mariners were down to Plan C at first base, after Mike Sweeney left in the second inning with spasms in his upper back. Sweeney got hurt trying to stop his swing at an inside pitch. His knees buckled from the pain before he went into the clubhouse. The 35-year-old five-time All-Star will be re-evaluated Thursday.

Cedeno finished the at-bat and flew out. Then Lopez moved from second base to first.

Regular first baseman Russell Branyan could be back Thursday. He's been out since Saturday with low back spasms.

Note: DH Ken Griffey Jr. went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. The 39-year-old is batting .171 with two home runs and two RBIs in 12 games of his return season in Seattle. ... Seattle pitchers tied a team record with four wild pitches. ... The crowd of 16,476 on a cold night was the fourth-smallest at Safeco Field, which opened in 1999. Rain forced the roof closed for the first time this season, after a record eight consecutive open-roof games to begin a season.

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