The end of a long road trip for the Rays finally has arrived with Sunday's game at Seattle, and the one that will wrap it up stands as the one they need to win the most.
Having gone 2-7 on the 10-game trip through three AL West cities and seeing their lead in the race for the second Wild Card dwindle to a single game, the Rays turn to left-hander Matt Moore to right the ship before the team sails back home. He'll meet Erasmo Ramirez in the finale of the three-game set at Safeco Field.
For his part, Moore accepts the reality that it's on the Rays' rotation to provide a shutdown start to help turn things around.
"This is the time of year where we want to be our toughest and at our best, and give our best performances," Moore said. "We're all focused for our start day and cheering the other guys on, on their start days."
Moore has won seven consecutive decisions dating back to June, although he missed about a month on the disabled list with elbow soreness. The 15-game winner says the detour might have made him a little fresher for the stretch run.
"I feel, I think, stronger in this point of September, I think than I did last year," Moore said. "I would say a lot of that has to do with taking 30 days off ... if every pitcher did that, I think they'd be feeling better in September."
Ramirez will make the start against the Rays for just the second time in his career. He recorded the win in his first start against the Rays on Aug. 13, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old is 5-1 with a 5.07 ERA thanks to 5.89 runs of support on average.
"My body is great, and let's see what happens. I'm going to face a team for the second time so it's good that they know me, I know them," Ramirez said.
Ramirez will be working with catcher Mike Zunino, who recently returned to the team after a five-week absence while a broken hamate bone in his left wrist healed.
Rays: Longoria goes long
Evan Longoria connected on his first homer of September, actually his first since Aug. 25, on Saturday, giving him 29 on the season and extending his hitting streak to five games.
• Reliever Jesse Crain, sidelined with a right shoulder strain since being acquired from the White Sox in July, threw 25 pitches off a mound Saturday and hopes to toss again Sunday with hopes of being back by the end of the season.
"I think that's the biggest thing that tells me when I'm healthy, when I can go out there and push it and then come back the next day and I'm strong. I haven't gone backwards," he said.
Mariners: Franklin shakes it off
Second baseman Nick Franklin took a knee to the back of the head when first baseman Justin Smoak collided with him on a blooper to right field Saturday, but he stayed in the game and went 2-for-4 at the plate to break a slump.
Franklin had a pair of doubles after entering the game in a 4-for-47 skid since Aug. 24.
• Danny Hultzen, the Mariners' No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, threw 51 pitches in a simulated game Saturday, the most action he's seen since an injury that has cost him most of the season. Hultzen will head to the Instructional League, and then the Arizona Fall League.
• The Rays are now 14-14 against the AL West with Sunday's finale and a four-game series against the Rangers remaining.
• The Rays get a breather Monday after their long trip, but they jump right back into the fray Tuesday by hosting AL East leader Boston. The Mariners will host the Astros for a three-game series starting Monday.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.