SEATTLE (AP) — Joe Maddon is concerned about the Tampa Bay Rays offense and their inability to make up for a poor night by the pitchers.
"Effort is good. Preparation is good. We're just unable to get the hit when you need to," Maddon said. "I know we gave up six runs, but sometimes you've got to score seven, you've got to score eight. We're still unable to really put an offense together."
Seattle's James Paxton threw six strong innings, allowing just one earned run in his major league debut, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales hit solo homers and the Mariners continued Tampa Bay on their West Coast slide with a 6-2 win over the Rays on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay lost for the seventh time in nine games on its swing through Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles and saw its lead in the AL wild-card race reduced to one game after both Cleveland and Baltimore won on Saturday.
The Rays have spent 61 straight days in position for a postseason berth, but if they can't avoid a sweep by the Mariners on Sunday, that run might finally end.
"Just staying after it. These are those kind of moments that if you do quit on yourself then it goes away," Maddon said. "But we'll continue to fight through it and all of a sudden you'll come out on the other side. It's truly that simple and difficult at the same time."
Paxton (1-0) became the latest Seattle prospect to make a successful debut, joining Taijuan Walker. Paxton shut out the Rays for five innings and his only mistake was giving up a two-run homer to Evan Longoria in the sixth.
Paxton became the third Seattle pitcher in club history to throw at least six innings and allow one earned run or fewer in his major league debut. He struck out three and walked one. He also pitched just hours after getting word that his grandfather, Lawrie, had died.
"That wasn't easy. A very close family and he was kind of the glue," Paxton said "So it was great my family could make it down here tonight to watch me pitch and I know he was up there watching also."
Tampa Bay had a chance to cut into the deficit in the seventh after reliever Tom Wilhelmsen started the inning with consecutive walks and a wild pitch to put runners at second and third with no outs. He got a shallow fly ball to right from Yunel Escobar for the first out and the runners had to hold.
Desmond Jennings popped out to shortstop for the second out and Ben Zobrist flew out to deep right-center to end the threat.
The Rays entered the game hitting just .159 with runners in scoring position on their road trip and went 0 for 4 on Saturday.
"It's never fun. It's somewhat frustrating but I have faith in our guys," Maddon said.
Smoak went opposite field for his 16th homer of the season in the second inning off Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer and Morales added his 19th homer in the third. It was Morales' second homer in four games after going 34 games in July, August and early September with only one long ball.
Seattle also squeezed home a run in the fifth inning on Abraham Almonte's perfect bunt that scored Nick Franklin. Michael Saunders and Franklin both had RBI doubles in the sixth as Seattle extended its lead.
Archer (8-7) struggled against Seattle last month and was done after just four innings on Saturday. He allowed two earned runs and four hits, but Maddon ended his night after 75 pitches.
"I'm sure if we weren't in such a tight pennant race, two solo homers wouldn't lead to me coming out," Archer said. "Considering the situation, I have to understand, we are trying to do what is best for the team."
Paxton was a big reason why the Rays offense continued to struggle. He didn't disappoint, with a fastball that hit 96 mph on the stadium radar gun.
Paxton was cruising until the sixth when he made a mistake. Zobrist reached on a one-out error by Kyle Seager and Longoria quickly cut the deficit in half with a long homer to deep left-center, his 29th of the season.
The 421-foot blast off the out-of-town scoreboard was just the third hit of the night for the Rays.
Notes: Rays RHP Jesse Crain, on the 60-day DL with a shoulder strain, threw a 26-pitch bullpen session on Saturday. Maddon said the plan is for Crain to throw another bullpen on Tuesday back home and proceed from there. ... Seattle prospect Danny Hultzen threw a 51-pitch simulated game on Saturday. He's battled shoulder problems this season and will go to the instructional league before pitching in the Arizona Fall League.