Doug Fister’s strong outing was derailed by a loss of control in one inning.
The Tampa Bay Rays scored three times in the second, taking advantage of a trio of bloop singles and a pair of walks off Fister.
With American League pitcher of the month for May Jeremy Hellickson holding the Seattle Mariners to just one run and three hits over 7 1-3 innings, it was too much for the Mariners to overcome as the Rays held on for a 3-2 road victory Saturday.
“I felt like from first pitch to last pitch, trying to locate and fell short that one inning and that’s the way the ball rolls,” Fister said.
Fister (3-6) settled in after the second inning, retiring 11 straight batters and striking out the side in the fifth inning.
“He was up, up, up, up and then finally got his command down and started mixing his curveball and got even better,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Fister.
Fister lasted seven innings allowing three runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out six.
“Doug struggled in that one inning early on but he was able to get through it,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He had to fight through it, but I couldn’t be more impressed with that he did after that.”
With two outs and runners on first and second, Fister allowed a flare to center by Johnny Damon that drove in a run. Damon managed to take an extra base when both middle infielders, Adam Kennedy and Brendan Ryan, chased the looping flyball, leaving no one to cover second.
Ben Zobrist followed with a two-run single on a soft liner into center field.
“We used the bloop hit to spark rallies and Zobrist had a great swing on a pitch that was almost impossible to hit,” Damon said. “Fister was able to do whatever he wanted with the ball with the curveball, the cutter, the sinker. He’s getting better too as he matures and he pitched a great game today.”
Fister has pitched at least five innings in every start he’s made this season. It was the second time this season he had pitched seven-plus innings in back-to-back starts.
“For him to be out of sync the way he was that one inning and for him to find it, get it back and get us deep into the ballgame … great effort. Great effort,” Wedge said.
Ultimately, Hellickson was better.
Hellickson (7-3) improved to 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his last seven starts. The 6-foot-1 right-hander recorded five wins and gave up just six earned runs in 40 1-3 innings last month.
Joel Peralta replaced Hellickson in the eighth and yielded a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2. But Peralta got Ichiro Suzuki to fly out to end the inning and Kyle Farnsworth finished for his 11th save in 12 chances.
“He is a good pitcher, a lot of fastballs,” Kennedy said of Hellickson. “His fastball is what makes his other pitches good. It comes out of his hand well. He is in the strike zone on both sides of the plate.”
Seattle had a chance in the fourth but Smoak was called out by plate umpire Darryl Cousins when he tried to score on Kennedy’s flyball to right. Smoak appeared to reach home just ahead of the tag after Matt Joyce made a strong throw to the plate.
Smoak’s leadoff double in the fourth was the Mariners’ first legitimate hit off Hellickson, who struck out four and walked one. Carlos Peguero was given a single in the second on a flyball to left when Sam Fuld lost the ball in the sun and dropped in off his hip.
Peguero also doubled in the eighth and scored on Olivo’s sixth homer of the season.