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TB@SEA: Cobb strikes out nine over 6 1/3 solid frames

SEATTLE -- Alex Cobb has seen enough of Mariners rookie Dustin Ackley.

"He's battled me well for two years now going back to Double-A and the Fall League," Cobb said. "He must just see me well, but I've always had a little trouble with him."

Saturday afternoon brought Tampa Bay's 23-year-old right-hander a haunting reminder of that fact.

Ackley hit a two-run homer off Cobb in the first inning and in the sixth he doubled with one out then scored on Mike Carp's single for what turned out to be the winning run in a 3-2 Mariners win over the Rays at Safeco Field with 24,985 watching.

In defeat, the Rays moved to 55-51 on the season while having their two-game winning streak snapped.

Both of Ackley's hits came on 3-2 counts.

"That's a count that you know the guy is going to throw something over the plate and not walk you," Ackley said. "I took advantage of a couple pitches that he gave me to hit and found some holes and hit the homer and the double."

Other than Ackley, Cobb had his way with the Mariners' lineup, striking out a career-high nine while going toe-to-toe with Mariners starter Michael Pineda.

"Both guys were really good," manager Joe Maddon said. "I've never seen their guy before. [He] obviously [has] great velocity [and a] good slider. I really liked Alex a lot, too. The one guy -- Ackley -- just got him today."

Pineda is an imposing figure on the mound. The 22-year-old right-hander stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 260 pounds. Pineda's performance matched his appearance in a dominating outing that saw him hold Rays hitters to one earned run on one hit while striking out 10 over 6 1/3 innings to earn his ninth win.

Jeff Gray and Brandon League picked up the slack by holding the Rays scoreless for the final 2 2/3 innings to preserve the win.

Tampa Bay's one-hit performance matched its season low for hits in a game. Boston's Josh Beckett pitched a one-hit complete game against the Rays on June 15 at Tropicana Field.

Pineda held the Rays hitless through five innings, and since Tampa Bay has been on the receiving end of two perfect games and a no-hitter over the course of the past two seasons, a palpable vibe could be felt that Pineda might just turn the trick.

"He had that kind of stuff," Maddon said, "but looking at his pitch numbers and what was going on, I didn't think he would last the whole game. He's the kind of guy on any given night you're going to say he's got no-hit stuff with his combination of velocity and breaking ball. He can be very special."

Sean Rodriguez was hit by a 3-2 Pineda pitch to open the sixth. Desmond Jennings successfully sacrificed Rodriguez to second base, and Rodriguez went to third when Johnny Damon grounded out to second. Ben Zobrist then singled to right to drive home Rodriguez and tie the score at 2 with Tampa Bay's first -- and what turned out to be its only -- hit.

Zobrist also drove in Tampa Bay's first run in the fourth when he grounded out to shortstop. His hit extended his hitting streak to 10 games, but that was all the offense the Rays could manage on an afternoon in which they struck out 13 times.

"We did a lot of things well regarding moving the conga line along, we just could not get any hits when we needed to," Maddon said.

Maddon did not show any frustration even though he had to be feeling some after watching his club's offense fizzle after scoring 18 runs in the previous two games.

"We just have to do better offensively," Maddon said. "I mean, the work's being done. Everybody's trying. Sometimes you can almost try too hard, but we just came off two games where all of a sudden you see a light at the end of the tunnel. Then to fall back off the cliff, that's the difficult part.

"We just have to become more consistent. You've seen that it's there. You know that it's there. We just have to bring it to bear on a more consistent basis."

Meanwhile, Cobb made a favorable impression on the Mariners.

"He just mixes up his pitches really well," Mike Carp said. "He stuck around the zone, put the ball down. The second time through, he kept his fastball down. He was working that split really well."

Cobb pitched well enough to win, but instead took his first loss in eight Major League starts.

"There's been pitching duels before and someone is going to come out on the losing end -- happened to be me today," Cobb said. "Throughout a game, you're going to make some bad pitches. I just felt like today when I made some bad pitches, they really capitalized on them."

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