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Hernandez gets 8th win, Cruz hits 18th homer, Mariners beat Rays 3-0 for 3-game sweep

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon need just one word to describe another great start by Felix Hernandez.

Phenomenal.

Hernandez pitched a four-hitter to become the major's first eight-game winner, Nelson Cruz hit his AL-best 18th homer to snap a scoreless tie in the ninth inning and the Seattle Mariners completed a three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on Wednesday.

"What a performance," McClendon said. "I don't know what to say."

Hernandez (8-1) got four double plays in his second shutout this season. He struck out eight and walked one in his first win at Tropicana Field after going 0-2 in four previous starts.

Brad Boxberger (2-3) relieved Chris Archer after he pitched two-hit ball for eighth innings, and Boxberger walked Seth Smith and Robinson Cano with two outs.

Cruz then made it 3-0 on a long home run that landed in a center-field 10,000 gallon fish tank that is home to a group of cownose rays. It was just the fourth homer into the tank since 2007.

"Three-run homers, they're not bad," McClendon said. "Makes you feel pretty good."

Cruz has six homers when Hernandez pitches.

"I love that guy," Hernandez said.

This is the Mariners' first three-game road sweep against the Rays since Sept. 2000.

Seattle (23-23) reached the .500 mark for the first time since April 12.

Archer tied a career high with 12 strikeouts for the Rays, who have lost five in a row. The right-hander had stretches where he retired 12 and 11 batters in a row.

"It was a really good game," Hernandez said. "That was tough competition."

PHOTO: Tampa Bay Rays left fielder David DeJesus holds up his glove after making a sliding catch on a fly ball by Seattle Mariners' Seth Smith during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Rays left fielder David DeJesus holds up his glove after making a sliding catch on a fly ball by Seattle Mariners' Seth Smith during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Archer allowed just two runners, coming on a first-inning double by Smith and Logan Morrison's single in the fifth. Left fielder David DeJesus took away an extra-base hit from Smith with a lunging catch on a sixth-inning opposite-field liner.

"I can't say enough about their young starter," McClendon said. "He was tremendous. At times, dominating. He had it all going. Needless to say I was happy to see him leave the game."

Hernandez got inning-ending double plays with two-on in both the second and sixth innings. He also induced double plays with one-on during the third and fifth.

"We figured it was going to be quite the pitching duel," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It certainly was. I don't know if we've seen a better one this year combined between two starting pitchers.

Kevin Kiermaier left with a bruised right ankle after the seventh, one inning after he got hit by Hernandez's pitch. X-rays were negative.

RAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: CF Austin Jackson is 1 for 9 in two games since returning from a sprained right ankle. He struck out in all four at-bats Wednesday.

Rays: Cash is hopeful SS Asdrubal Cabrera (groin) and RF Steven Souza Jr. (left wrist) will be back in the lineup Friday. ... LHP Matt Moore (elbow surgery) will start his second extended spring training game Thursday. ... OF Desmond Jennings (left knee), who has missed 30 games, is playing catch.

MOVING DAY

RHP Grant Balfour, pitching at Triple-A Durham, asked for and was granted his release. The Rays re-signed Balfour to a minor league deal after designating him for assignment in April and then releasing him.

DEJA VU

Hernandez set a career high with 15 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in his previous start at Tropicana Field last June 8. His opponent was Archer, who didn't allow a run in 6 1-3 innings. The Mariners won the game 5-0, thanks to a five-run ninth.

UP NEXT

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (3-2) will face reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, RHP Corey Kluber (2-5), and Cleveland Thursday night.

Rays: Tampa Bay starts a 10-game road trip Friday night at Baltimore.

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PHOTO: Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer delivers to the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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