Seattle are 11-3 in their last 14 games, including 4-2 in the first six contests of their present homestand.  Eric Wedge’s club continues its stretch at Safeco Field with Thursday night’s opener of a against the Rays.

Thursday’s matchup has a pair of marquee right-handers slated, with Tampa Bay’s James Shields (5-3, 2.15 ERA) opposing Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.19 ERA).  The betting odds opened Hernandez as a -130 favorite but have since dropped to -115, while the ‘total’ is holding at 6 ½ ‘under’ (minus 120).



Hernandez tossed a no-decision in Saturday’s 5-4 extra-inning win for Seattle as a 142 home favorite in the baseball odds against the New York Yankees.  The 2010 AL Cy Young winner allowed all four of New York’s runs in seven innings (128 pitches), including two homers.

Four Mariners relievers united to allow three hits over the final five frames.  Seattle’s David Pauley lasted a full two innings for the win, moving to a 4-0 season mark.

The close affair’s combined nine runs jumped above the ‘total’ of seven.  Mariners second baseman Adam Kennedy cracked the game-winning hit off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, driving in pinch-runner Luis Rodriguez.

Evan Longoria for the Tampa Bay RaysSeattle is 15-14 in its first 29 home dates, with the ‘total’ splitting at 13-13-3.  The Mariners are 4-1 in Hernandez’ five home starts, with the Venezuela native allowing a 1.19 WHIP and .297 OBP in that span.

Shields followed last week’s complete-game shutout against the Florida Marlins with a loss in Saturday’s 7-3 setback for Tampa Bay against the Cleveland Indians.  The 29-year-old allowed three runs over seven innings (104 pitches), picking up the loss as minus 187 home ‘chalk.’

Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria poked his third homer of the year as part of a 2-for-4 day.  Longoria’s mates Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman each cracked a double, uniting to hit 4-for-9.

The contest’s combined 10 runs soared above the ‘total’ of 7 ½.  Rays reliever J.P. Howell was shelled for four runs on two hits, facing only four batters in the eighth inning.

Tampa Bay is 15-10 in its first 25 road games, with the ‘over’ going 13-9-3.  Shields is 4-0 in his five starts away from home, with a stingy 0.86 WHIP and .234 OBP.

Thursday’s first pitch is scheduled for 10:10 p.m. (ET).  Safeco Field’s retractable roof makes weather conditions negligible.

This handicapper is backing the Rays and Shields, looking for a mild road upset at a price of plus 105.

Tampa Bay is 3-1 in Shields’ last four starts against the Mariners, with the California native allowing 12 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings.  Shields prevailed in last May’s trip to Seattle, giving up two runs over eight innings en route to the Rays’ 5-2 win.

Hernandez has had his share of good numbers, but comes off a season-high pitch count.  “King Felix” has not faced the Rays since Aug. 2009, surrendering five runs in a six-inning stint.

Damon has hit 9-for-16 lifetime against Hernandez, including four doubles and a homer.  Look for the 17-year veteran to stay hot for the Rays, extending on a 12-for-35 run in his last nine games.

Rays outfielder Matt Joyce presently tops the American League in hitting with a .361 BA.  The Florida Southern alum has cracked nine homers, including four on the road.

Tampa Bay’s bullpen has also held its own, allowing a .222 BA this year.  Look for the Rays to edge out Seattle in a low-scoring duel, stealing the series opener.