Neither Seattle nor Tampa Bay has played very well lately. The difference is, one club carries playoff hopes, while the other is firmly out of the race.
The Rays returned to Tropicana Field following an 0-5 road trip and dropped Tuesday's series opener against the Mariners, who have still lost 10 of their last 16 games. In Wednesday's contest, lefty David Price (6-5, 3.17 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the home team opposite Seattle righty Aaron Harang (5-10, 5.79 ERA).
Despite their six-game losing streak, the Rays (66-51) have maintained a grasp on the second American League Wild Card position. In the AL East, they trail Boston by four games.
"We still have a lot of baseball left," said Price, who is 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA since returning from the disabled list on July 2. "I'm not sure what the standings are, but we're not playing our best right now. We played extremely well before that, and played well while I was on the DL.
"That put us in the position we're in right now, and even though we've struggled over the last week, we're still in a very good position at the end of the year. We need to attack every game like we have so far, and we'll find ourselves in a good spot for the last week of the season."
As for the Mariners (55-63), Tuesday's win kicked off a three-city, nine-game road trip that goes through Texas and Oakland as well.
"We're going to be playing another [contending] team when we leave here, and then we'll be playing another when we go to Oakland," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "It's going to be that way the rest of the way. And we're trying to get back to .500 and see if we can get there.
"They have their goals and we have ours, and that is to get out there and win as many ballgames as we can, no matter who we're playing. But yeah, this is a tough road trip. It's going to be a good test for us."
Mariners: Harang trying to right ship
Harang is coming off his shortest outing since the end of the 2010 season. Across just two innings against Toronto, he allowed five hits and seven runs, with three walks and no strikeouts. Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind both homered off Harang, who ended up with a no-decision in a game the Mariners eventually won.
"We've seen him really good, and we've seen him bad," Thompson said. "The last couple haven't been real good. You can't afford to put guys on and walk guys. He's got to pound the strike zone and use his breaking ball and changeup and sink the ball a little bit and move it around. He needs to get guys to swing the bat and put it in play. Those free passes hurt, and at times, we haven't played real well behind him. We need to tighten that up and be more consistent."
Harang, who has thrown two shutouts this season, is 1-3 with an 8.63 ERA over his last five starts.
Rays: Price on a roll since return
Price probably left his last start thinking he'd added another win to his stat line. In seven innings on the road, Price held the Dodgers to seven hits and one unearned run, walking one and striking out four. His teammates entered the eighth with a five-run lead, but Los Angeles rallied for six runs in the final two innings, leading to a no-decision for Price.
"Even though it wasn't as good as it has been, it was still pretty good," Price said of his performance. "That's me being able to evolve as a pitcher. [Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey] has seen me as four or five different pitchers and that's good. I don't want to stay the same. As good as I was last year, I wanted to get better. There was a lot of room for improvement, and I've made some of those strides this year."
In 64 1/3 innings since coming off the disabled list, Price -- last year's AL Cy Young Award winner -- has racked up 44 strikeouts against just two walks. Opponents have hit .198 off Price in that span, during which he owns a 0.74 WHIP. Price has never faced Seattle.
• Both leadoff hitters in Monday's game -- Seattle's Brad Miller and Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist -- hit two home runs. It was just the second time in MLB history that leadoff hitters for both clubs homered in their first at-bat and then hit another later in the game, with Chuck Knoblauch of the Twins and Tony Phillips of the Tigers doing the double deed on June 5, 1994.
• Seattle has won five of the last six meetings between the two clubs.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.