ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mariners had several heroes lined up Monday night at Tropicana Field -- Felix Hernandez pitching his third straight gem and Jesus Montero hitting a go-ahead home run in the 11th inning -- but Tampa Bay didn't quite buy that script.
Instead, the red-hot Rays rallied for single runs in the 11th and 12th innings off Seattle closer Brandon League to pull out a 3-2 victory, their sixth straight home win.
In the end, Rays backup third baseman Elliot Johnson went home the hero after singling home the winning run with one out in the bottom of the 12th with a bloop to left field that scored Ben Zobrist from second base.
"I didn't do what I'm capable of doing, which is make them put the ball on the ground," said League, who allowed a run for just the second time in 13 appearances this season.
The Mariners lost starting catcher Miguel Olivo in the ninth inning when he strained his right groin muscle making a play on a ball hit in front of the mound, with manager Eric Wedge saying he's headed to the disabled list.
That made for an extra-somber clubhouse for a Seattle squad that lost its third straight after opening this 10-game road trip with four wins.
"We hurt for Miggy," said Hernandez, who pitched his third straight masterpiece with eight innings of one-run ball.
Montero, the designated hitter, took over at catcher, which meant the Mariners lost their DH for the remainder of the game. Montero nearly made that point moot when he drove a Wade Davis pitch into the right-field seats for his fourth home run of the season in the top of the 11th.
But the Rays rallied against League, who was in scramble mode from the get-go as Luke Scott led off the 11th with a double before pinch-runner Jeff Keppinger went to third on a fly ball by Matt Joyce. League got former Mariners catcher Chris Gimenez to ground out to Alex Liddi at third, but B.J. Upton singled to right-center to make it 2-2.
League walked Zobrist with one out in the 12th, gave up a single to Carlos Pena and then saw Johnson -- who replaced injured third baseman Evan Longoria in the fourth inning -- drive in the winning run with a hit to left.
It was the first RBI of the season for Johnson. Longoria will undergo an MRI on Tuesday to check on soreness behind his knee. Former Mariners third baseman Matt Mangini is one of the possibilities to be called up from Triple-A if Longoria goes on the DL.
Hernandez allowed just one run on five hits and struck out nine while engaging in a tremendous duel with Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson. Hernandez has allowed just two earned runs in 23 innings over his past three starts, his ERA now sitting at 2.23 with a 2-1 record.
Hellickson matched Hernandez for seven innings, getting touched for just one run on six hits while striking out seven before Rays manager Joe Maddon went to his bullpen. The 25-year-old has allowed just three runs in four starts against Seattle since last season, when he was the American League Rookie of the Year.
Other than Olivo's second-inning home run, the Mariners did little else against Tampa Bay's young right-hander, putting just one runner into scoring position in the first eight innings and failing to deliver in that one shot. Seattle is 0-for-25 with runners in scoring position over the last three games.
The Mariners threatened in the top of the ninth when Kyle Seager singled and pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki went to third on an Olivo single. But when Michael Saunders dropped a bunt, Kawasaki was thrown out at the plate by Rays closer Fernando Rodney for the second out before pinch-hitter John Jaso lined out to center.
Wedge said Saunders decided to bunt on his own, a decision he wasn't happy about.
"I've talked to him about it already and asked his reasons for it and he had good answers, but it's still not what we want him to do right there," Wedge said. "If we're going to do that there, it's going to come from me and everybody is going to be aware of it so there's a level of awareness there that allows Kawasaki to come home, quite frankly.
"But he's a young player playing every day for the first time really and he's doing a good job. He made a mistake tonight, but he'll be better for it."
Saunders has been Seattle's hottest hitter of late but said he wasn't seeing the ball well on Monday in a 1-for-5 night when his lone hit was a checked-swing single. So he thought he could catch the Rays off guard.
"It wasn't the best-placed bunt," he said. "I feel if I could have gotten it another foot to the left, maybe it would have been fine. The third baseman was playing me back. It's just one of those things I took on my own account, did on my own and it was my own decision. Unfortunately, it didn't work out."