SEATTLE (AP) - James Shields made it look easy in the first inning and as though he was set for a pitching showdown with Seattle ace Felix Hernandez.
It feel apart quickly from there for the Tampa Bay righty.
Rookie Carlos Peguero hit two of Seattle's season-high four home runs, all off Shields, and Hernandez cruised through seven innings to lead the Mariners to an 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
Peguero hit a three-run homer as part of Seattle's five-run second inning, then added a solo homer in the fourth. Justin Smoak and Jack Cust also hit solo shots for the Mariners, who roughed up Shields (5-4) for a season-high seven earned runs.
``That one I did not see coming,' Rays' manager Joe Maddon said. ``He's been so money. The Mariners are a nice ballclub but they're not know right now for that kind of outburst.'
Shields was a little more critical of his own performance - his worst since giving up six homers and lasting just four innings last August against Toronto.
``I didn't do a good job of damage control in the second inning,' Shields said. ``These guys came out hacking, I made some mistakes and they took advantage of it.'
The matchup between Shields and Hernandez featured the top two strikeout pitchers in the American League. Both entered with 81 on the season, but Hernandez was clearly the better arm.
The AL Cy Young champ struck out 11 - his third time this season with 10 or more - and gave up just five hits in seven strong innings.
``We knocked him out of the game after seven innings and 11 strikeouts,' Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach deadpanned.
Hernandez had five strikeouts through three innings and escaped a first-inning jam after Matt Joyce doubled but was left at third base. He didn't give up another hit until Sam Fuld's single leading off the fifth and after Johnny Damon's two-out walk in the first, retired 10 of the next 11. Hernandez lost his shutout in the sixth when Evan Longoria and Damon hit consecutive singles and Felipe Lopez scored Longoria with a two-out hit.
Hernandez left after throwing just 97 pitches, given a break after throwing a career high-tying 128 pitches in his last start against the New York Yankees. Aaron Laffey took over on relief and gave up an eighth inning homer to Joyce, his 10th of the season, but that was it for the Rays offense.
``It's really hard to be hyper critical when he pitches like that,' Maddon said. ``We needed to win the game 2-1 or 3-2. That was my thought coming in but it did not work out that way.'
Peguero showed a measure of growth in his first at-bat, which ended with a 421-foot drive to right-center. Peguero was fooled early in the count on a changeup from Shields, but made an adjustment and waited on the off-speed pitch, driving it well into the seats.
In his second at-bat, Peguero again caught Shields making a mistake with an off-speed pitch. But instead of trying to pull Shields' hanging curve, Peguero went with it and drove it out to left-center. When Peguero came to the plate in fifth, fans in a special section devoted to Hernandez in the left field corner started chanting ``Carlos! Carlos!' even though Peguero struck out for the 23rd time in 62 at_bats.
``My ball was up ... bottom line,' Shields said. ``It was a game where they were catching everything. I was throwing curveballs, changeups, they were hitting everything tonight.'
NOTES: Seattle optioned OF Michael Saunders to Triple-A Tacoma after Thursday's game and recalled OF Greg Halman. ... Seattle's last four homer game came on Sept. 22, 2010, at Toronto when Jose Lopez hit three in the game. ... Tampa Bay RHP Jeremy Hellickson was honored as the AL rookie of the month and AL pitcher of the month for May on Thursday. He's the first rookie to double up on the award since Dontrelle Willis with Florida in 2003. ... The Mariners improved to 7-0 against Tampa Bay at home in games that Hernandez starts. In his previous six starts against the Rays at home, Hernandez received just nine total runs of support.
Tim Booth can be reached at: http://twitter.com/tjbooth7
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved