ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Seattle Mariners made a little mistake that led to a big inning for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb pitched five strong innings in his first big league game since being hit in the head by a batted ball two months ago, and the Rays beat the Mariners, 7-1, on Thursday night.

The Rays broke open a tie game in the fifth with help from a botched popup.

Sam Fuld led off the fifth with a sharp line drive that barely missed the head of Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders and went for a single.

“I tipped it with my glove rather than my face,” said Saunders, “which is good.”

After that Sean Rodriguez, hit a popup behind second base that could have been caught easily by second baseman Nick Franklin or by shortstop Brad Miller. But the rookie infielders called each other off and it dropped for another hit.

“We both called for it,” Miller said. “We just kept going after it and we looked at each other. He broke on it pretty good and I looked and he was camped under it, and I was like: ‘Dang, why did I call it?’ And we both backed off.”

“We can talk about growing pains, and hopefully they’ll learn from it, but that ball’s got to be caught,” said acting manager Robby Thompson. “I think they both take the blame for it. Would it be different if that ball is caught? There’s a chance. It kind of snow-balled after that.”

Wil Myers followed with a two-run double and Evan Longoria quickly made it 5-1 with a two-run home run, his 23rd of the season. The Mariners managed only two singles against three relief pitchers and never got back in the game.

“A half inning before we had the bases loaded and they struck a guy out, and it gave them the momentum,” Saunders said. “We gave it right back to them, and it was hard to recover from that. That was pretty much the turning point in the game.”

Cobb (7-2) ended his night by striking out Frankiln on a full-count pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. He received a standing ovation as he walked off the field with the score tied, 1-all.

Cobb, activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, sustained a concussion after being struck on the right ear by a liner hit by Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer on June 15. He gave up one run and three hits Thursday, striking out six and walking two, and said he never thought about his injury.

“That’s probably something I’ll reflect on tonight, but there’s so much stuff you’ve got to think about leading up to every single pitch that you go through, you don’t have time to think about the what if’s and what happened,” he said.

Myers had had three hits and four RBIs for the Rays, who have won two straight after a six-game losing streak.

Saunders (10-12) allowed five runs and seven hits over 4 1-3 innings.

Raul Ibanez gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the second on his first homer since going deep twice on July 12. He has 25 homers this season.

NOTES: Seattle manager Eric Wedge, recovering from what the team called a very mild stroke, could return during a homestand that starts Aug. 23. “He’s passing everything with flying colors, he’s feeling much better,” acting Mariners manager Robby Thompson said. “There’s a real good chance he will join us when we get back.” … As part of his season-long effort to keep his players loose, Rays manager Joe Maddon had a 20-foot python in the clubhouse before the game. … Thompson said before the game that in spite of a rough outing Wednesday night, rookie Danny Farquhar will retain the Mariners’ closer role. Farquhar had saved five straight before losing Wednesday night. … To make room on the roster for Cobb, Tampa Bay designated INF Ryan Roberts for assignment

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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