ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brendan McKay couldn’t provide a lift for a depleted Tampa Bay rotation and was headed back to the minors after his latest start.
Tom Murphy homered twice and drove in four runs, Austin Nola also went deep and had three RBI, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Rays 9-3 on Monday night.
McKay (2-3) allowed seven runs, three hits and three walks over two innings. The lefty was coming off an outing last Tuesday at San Diego where he gave up four runs, five hits and six walks in four innings.
About an hour after the game, the Rays announced the two-way player had been optioned to Triple-A Durham.
“Certainly his last two outings, a little bit of a rut,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said before McKay’s demotion. “That happens. Brendan is going to be a really good pitcher. He’s got to work through some stuff right now.”
McKay has given up three or more runs in five straight starts after allowing three runs combined over his first three outings.
“Falling behind a lot early,” McKay said. “It’s a lot easier for hitters to hit when they’re able to be more aggressive and free. Then just making a couple quality pitches and not getting the results you want in outs or strikes. It kind of weighs on you mentally, and frustrates you and things can snowball from there.”
The Rays’ rotation is without AL Cy Award winner Blake Snell (left elbow), Tyler Glasnow (right forearm strain) and Yonny Chirinos (right middle finger inflammation) until at least sometime in September.
“You don’t replace those guys,” Cash said. “So, we’re trying to piece it together and we’re asking to get a lot of pitches out of some young guys. It’s challenging.”
Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows homered for Tampa Bay, which is 2-2 on a six-game homestand against Detroit and Seattle. The Rays had their lead over Oakland for the second AL wild card cut to one game.
Tampa Bay dropped to 33-30 at home, which matched the total number of losses at Tropicana Field (51-30) all of last season.
Murphy, who had three hits and a walk, hit a three-run drive in the first inning and added a solo shot in the fifth. He has 15 homers in 52 games.
“He’s making it look easy,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s on some kind of a hot streak. If he hits a third one, I’m going to do a cartwheel in the dugout, he’s going that good.”
Nola had a two-run homer during a four-run second off McKay and had an RBI single in the fourth.
Marco Gonzales (13-10) went five innings, giving up three runs and five hits to get the win.
The Rays used five relievers before turning to infielder Mike Brosseau, who worked a perfect ninth.
Murphy’s homer in the first was set up by consecutive one-out walks to J.P Crawford and Nola.
“Any time you can take advantage of walks as a team, that’s a huge thing for us,” Murphy said. “That’s why walks are so deadly for teams.”
Crawford had an RBI single and Nola hit a two-run shot in the second that helped put the Mariners up 7-1.
Pham got his third homer in five games leading off the first. Meadows had a two-run drive in the fifth.