Following a brief road trip, the Tampa Bay Rays get the chance to add to the best home record in the majors.
Another superb start from Jeremy Hellickson at Tropicana Field might help, but he'll have to outperform Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez to win a third straight start in Monday night's four-game series opener.Playing its only road series in a span of more than two weeks, Tampa Bay (14-8) took two of three from AL-leading Texas including a 5-2 win in Sunday night's finale. Ben Zobrist, who finished a homer shy of the cycle, hit a leadoff triple during a three-run second inning and doubled in a run in the third.The Rays now begin a seven-game stay at Tropicana, where they're 8-1 this season and have won five in a row. with four against the Mariners (11-12).Tampa Bay has beaten the Mariners (11-12) in seven of eight home meetings and in four straight overall, including a three-game sweep at Tropicana from Aug. 19-21.Hellickson (3-0, 2.84 ERA) is 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA in two home starts this season. He gave up one run and five hits over six innings of a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.The right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA in three matchups with Seattle -- all last season. He threw eight innings of an 8-0 win over the Mariners on Aug. 20."I think they still have pretty much the same lineup," Hellickson told the Rays' official website. "I can't tell you what I've done differently. I've been on my game in those starts, I guess."The lineup may be similar, but Hellickson hasn't had to oppose Hernandez (2-1, 2.48).The Mariners' former Cy Young award winner is 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA in his last two starts, including a 9-1 win in at Detroit on Wednesday in which he gave up one run, four hits and three walks over seven innings."He's incredible with how he is able to work through things," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "When you got your best stuff, regardless of who you are, you're probably going to have a pretty good day. But it's those days like today when ... he had to fight through it, and he just never gave into it."Seattle won the first four contests on its 10-game road trip but got outscored 14-2 while dropping the last two at Toronto over the weekend. The Mariners gave up five of those runs in the eighth inning Sunday en route to a 7-2 defeat.Hernandez is 3-2 with a 2.42 ERA in nine starts against the Rays, but has lost both of his career outings at Tampa Bay, allowing 10 runs in 15 2/3 innings.Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, riding an 11-game hit streak, is 0 for 3 in his career against Hernandez.Ichiro Suzuki is 1 for 10 off Hellickson.