By Bradley Walker, 1010 Sports

Seattle (CBS) The Tampa Bay Rays looked like a completely different team Friday night. The bats showed up early, and Rays starter Jeff Niemann (5-4) sat down 11 hitters through six innings of work to give Tampa Bay the 8-0 shutout.

After a disappointing start to their 10- game road stint, the Rays came out swinging in Seattle and drove in eight runs in the second inning to all but guarantee a Rays’ victory on Friday.

With Boston and New York both losing yesterday, Tampa Bay now sits 9 1/2 back in the American League East and seven games back from the Wild Card leading New York Yankees. At 55-50, the team has 57 games to gain some ground and put themselves in good position for a playoff birth.

Erik Bedard (4-7) started on the rubber for Seattle and got caught in a jam early, giving up costly walks that the Rays eventually took advantage of. It was a complete team effort offensively with six of the Rays’ nine starters driving in runs  in the second inning to put the Mariners in a deep hole early.

Badard was pulled in the second, and Seattle’s relievers managed to keep the Rays scoreless for the rest of the game, but failed to score any runs to help their own cause. Niemann was part of the problem for the Mariners as he continued his dominance this season, giving up three hits in six shutout innings.

The win is a good sign for the Rays who have been slumping at the plate during the second half of the season. Runs have been hard to come by, but if your winning games then everything else doesn’t matter.

Tampa Bay looks to keep the spark alive when they play their second game of a three game set with Seattle this afternoon. The Rays’ can still make a late playoff run, and Manager Joe Maddon is their biggest believer.

“If you don’t believe it can happen, then it cannot, period. So, I’m a believer. And it’s my job to convince these other 25 guys it can happen.”


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