With Charlie Furbush struggling early, the M's fell behind big, and then bigger, and succumbed quietly 8-0 to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

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ST. PETERSBURG — At least this time the Mariners were spared the indignity of blowing a late lead.

With Charlie Furbush struggling early, the M’s fell behind big, and then bigger, and succumbed quietly, 8-0 to the Rays at Tropicana Field. It was their fourth straight loss.

Furbush, in his fourth start for Seattle since his arrival from Detroit, was coming off a strong outing against the Red Sox, in which he limited the best-hitting team in the American League to four hits and one run in seven innings.

But against the Rays, that version of Furbush was not to be seen. He lasted just three innings, every bit of it a labor. Furbush gave up eight hits, which included the cycle — a two-run homer by Evan Longoria in the first, a triple by Johnny Damon, a double by Ben Zobrist (his league-leading 41st) and five singles.

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“I just wasn’t throwing good enough pitches, leaving the ball up in the zone, and I just wasn’t executing,” Furbush said. “Physically, I felt fine. No different than the last start. I just wasn’t getting the pitches where I needed to today.

“I was throwing strikes; I just wasn’t throwing good enough strikes. That’s how it went today.”

And this is also how it went on a night in which Ken Griffey Jr. greeted players in the quiet clubhouse afterward: The Mariners flailed again against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, whose Rookie of the Year credentials are being boosted considerably by his starts against Seattle. He is now 3-0 with a 0.81 earned-run average against the M’s this year.

“He mixes his pitches real well, and he locates everything,” said Kyle Seager, one of eight rookies to see action for Seattle. “He’s a tough guy, because you can’t sit on any pitch in particular. He can throw any pitch at any time. He’s just a tough guy.”

Hellickson (11-8) blanked the Mariners for eight innings, limiting them to six hits. He struck out five and walked one.

The Mariners’ best chance to score off him came in the eighth, when they got runners to second and third with one out. But Dustin Ackley flied to right — Ichiro, on third base, chose not to challenge the arm of Zobrist — and Mike Carp popped out.

“He’s been really good,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Hellickson. “He keeps the ball down. The only time he comes up is when he wants to, to try to climb on us and get us to swing through the fastball.”

Order was restored during an impressive relief outing by Tom Wilhelmsen, who hit the first batter he faced, Desmond Jennings, and then retired nine straight. Wilhelmsen struck out three.

“I thought it was a particularly good outing for him,” Wedge said.

The 27-year-old rookie believes he’s starting to settle into his role.

“It’s all about just being comfortable, staying within yourself,” he said. “It’s starting to come over time, maybe.”

Chance Ruffin followed Wilhelmsen with a scoreless inning — albeit one that included 25 pitches and two Tampa Bay hits — but Josh Lueke was hit around in the eighth. He gave up three runs — two on a Longoria single — in two-thirds of an inning to officially turn the game into a rout.

The Mariners, a day after putting infielder Jack Wilson on the disabled list with a bruised left heel, lost shortstop Luis Rodriguez with an injury in the second inning.

Rodriguez was hit on his right elbow with a Hellickson pitch, causing him obvious pain. He stayed in the game, but was removed after the inning. Seager shifted from third to short, and Adam Kennedy took over at third.

Rodriguez has a contusion on the elbow and is day to day, though Wedge said “it’s nothing major.” Wedge is hopeful that Brendan Ryan, who came off the disabled list Friday but still isn’t 100 percent, will be able to play in Sunday’s series finale.

“I’m anxious to get him back in there, but he has to be able to perform, too,” he said.

One of the few bright spots for the Mariners was Carp’s single to left in the fourth, extending his hitting streak to 19. Carp has now gotten on base in 28 straight games. Both streaks are the longest active ones in the majors.

For the Rays, Longoria’s homer in the first, following Damon’s triple, was his 20th of the year. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews is the only other third baseman in MLB history to have 20 homers or more in each of his first four seasons.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

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