ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon believes Dustin Ackley can be the best player in the ballpark on any given day. Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays proved to be one of those days.
Ackley's bases-clearing, three-run double in the top of the fifth inning broke open a tight game and lifted the Mariners to a 7-4 victory over the Rays.
The Mariners scored four runs in the fifth and were able to chase Rays starter Alex Cobb.
"It's nice to see Dustin driving in runs because he's more than capable of doing it," McClendon said. "I don't want taking a back seat to anyone else when he's out there."
Ackley, Seattle's designated hitter, finished 2-for-4 and first baseman Willie Bloomquist and left fielder Endy Chavez also had multiple hits.
"He threw me a 0-2 curveball and he threw one earlier in the at-bat that I missed," Ackley said. "But this one didn't have the same bite and I was able to catch it. It's important for us to be able to generate runs up and down the lineup and not put everything on Robinson (Cano)."
While the Mariners' bats were working, starter Roenis Elias had another quality outing as he overcame some early struggles to work into the eighth inning.
Elias found trouble in the bottom of the second when first baseman James Loney belted a solo home run and catcher Ali Solis executed a well-placed squeeze bunt to score shortstop Yunel Escobar and give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
However. the 25-year-old Elias settled down and retired 16 of 18 batters at one point as the Mariners gave him a 7-2 lead.
"It was good to see him build on his last start and find some consistency," McClendon said. "He has to bring his best effort every time we give him the ball and not just against the elite teams."
The Mariners grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a two-run single from Bloomquist that scored Ackley and shortstop Brad Miller.
In the fifth, Seattle loaded the bases with no outs to set up Ackley's big hit as Cano and catcher Mike Zunino reached on sharply-hit singles with a walk to third baseman Kyle Seager sandwiched in between.
Cobb was chased one batter later and gave up seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
"I just wasn't hitting the sports very well and when I was throwing off-speed, it was more often flat than not," Cobb said. "You've got to give credit to them; they were making me work really hard, getting the bat on the ball and then finishing me off with some really hard-hit balls."
Rays manager Joe Maddon thought Cobb threw some good pitches but did not get some of the breaks he expected.
"It was just unusual to see him not get more swings and misses," Maddon said. "I was surprised how well they were on him today. Maybe the changeup didn't have the normal dive today because they were on it.
"They had some really good at-bats and they were finding the spots."
In the eighth, Elias gave up a two-run homer to third baseman Evan Longoria to make it 7-4, but that was all for the Rays.
Elias allowed four runs and five hits with five strikeouts and two walks in 7 2/3 innings. Fernando Rodney picked up the save by retiring the Rays in order in the bottom of the ninth.
NOTES: There was a 25-minute ceremony before the game to honor Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer, who passed away last week at age 83. Among those present were Hall of Famers Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda, along with two-time World Series champion manager Jim Leyland. "It's obvious that it's going to be a major void in my life personally, but it's a big loss for baseball," Torre said. Several players gave video tributes, including Kansas City Royals pitcher James Shields, who played for the Rays from 2006 to 2012. Shields said, "I'd love to be there today, but Zim would surely tell me that I need to be ready to pitch tomorrow and beat up the Yankees." ... Mariners RF Cole Gillespie hit his first home run of the season in the top of the second inning on Saturday, a shot to straight-away center well over the 404-foot marker. He is batting .500 (7-for-14) in his last six games. ... The Mariners have won six of their last seven games. The Rays have lost 11 of their last 12.