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 RBIs, 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.
Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez (right shoulder stiffness) made what could be final rehab start Monday night for Triple-A Tacoma. He gave up one run and four hits with three walks and five strikeouts in three innings. ... OF Mitch Haniger (ruptured testicle) could be back during a six-game homestand that starts Friday.
Rays: Glasnow had his first bullpen session and could throw BP next week. ... Snell is playing catch. ... INFs Brandon Lowe (right shin bone bruise) and Joey Wendle (right wrist inflammation) will join Triple-A Durham on Tuesday.
BACK OUT THERE
Mariners RF Mallex Smith started after being out of lineup the previous two games. Smith was thrown out at second base Friday trying to stretch a single into a double, one of multiple baserunning errors recently by Seattle.
Mariners CF Keon Broxton had a fastball by Diego Castillo go off the bill of his helmet in the eighth inning. He was fine afterwards.
Mariners LHP Tommy Milone (2-7) will follow an opener Tuesday night. Rays LHP Jalen Beeks (5-2) is expected to start or also follow an opener.