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SEA@HOU: Hernandez strikes out six over five frames

Felix Hernandez isn't exactly slumping, though there are at least two stats that generate concern. First, Sunday marked exactly one month since his last win.

Then there was last week, when the Mariners' right-handed ace threw 97 pitches, but didn't strike out a single Oakland hitter. He also couldn't hold on to a late lead, instead picking up a no-decision in Seattle's 6-4 win over the A's in extra innings. In all, Hernandez allowed four runs, three earned, on 11 hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings.

Still, not a slump -- at least if you ask Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.

"The guys in the other dugout -- they drive Mercedes Benz, too," he said. "They're pretty good. Sometimes the bear gets you. You don't get the bear every time. Even the great ones."

Hernandez's next opportunity to break his winless streak comes Monday night at Safeco Field when the Mariners open a three-game series against the Rays.

It comes on the heels of a road trip that was tough in a few ways for the 2010 Cy Young winner.

Consider that Hernandez came down with flu-like symptoms while the team was in New York. After a rainout, his start was pushed back a day, so he faced the last-place Astros in Houston. Still, weakened by the virus that knocked third baseman Kyle Seager out of the lineup Friday and Saturday, Hernandez lasted just five innings and got a no-decision as the Mariners went on to lose, 5-4.

McClendon, however, liked the way Hernandez bounced back against the A's.

"Felix has had to battle his last couple outings, but I saw good energy, I saw quality pitches, I saw good at bats," he said. "They hit one ball hard. Other than that, they slapped it around a little bit. Felix is fine."

He'll have the benefit of facing converted reliever Cesar Ramos on Monday, and a Rays offense that enters ranked near the middle of the American League in runs scored.

Ramos was elevated to the Rays' starting rotation to replace lefty Matt Moore, who is lost for the season because of Tommy John surgery.

"I feel like my body is starting to adjust to the the ups and downs of being a starter," said Ramos, who made four relief appearances to start the season before Moore was injured. "It's becoming normal. I'm over the adjustment part."

Monday will mark Ramos' sixth start, his fourth on the road. In his last four starts and one relief appearance, he has posted a 1.69 ERA.

"It's a huge confidence boost, knowing I can do it," Ramos said.

Monday will mark Ramos' sixth career appearance (no starts) against the Mariners.

Rays: Length of games taking toll

The Rays have played a Major League-high five games of four-plus hours this season. Including Saturday's relative "quickie" (3:03) against the Indians, the average of their last 11 games was 3:43 -- with only one extra-inning game.

"The games have really been long," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's too much. I don't notice it during the games. But I really feel it when the game is over. I take my time a little bit after the game, but not a lot. I'm driving home and I think, 'Whoa! Where did that [time] go?' I don't like 'em that long."

Of the Rays' first 37 games, 28 have lasted longer than three hours, and 14 have gone longer than 3:30.

Worth noting

• Assuming all goes well in Alex Cobb's simulated game in Port Charlotte on Monday, he will make a rehab start for Class A Advanced Charlotte next Saturday.

• Tuesday will mark David Price's first career start in Seattle -- even though the Rays have made six trips to Seattle and played 20 games there during the left-hander's career. Comments