Archer strikes out 11 seven innings and Rays take four-game series.

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The expectation of runs being scarce for the Mariners on Sunday, or any day for that matter, was followed by yet another disappointing affirmation.

As has been the case in their previous outings against him, Seattle did little against Rays starter Chris Archer. But unlike the last two showdowns where they found ways to pull out a win against the Tampa Bay bullpen, the Mariners’ run-challenged offense couldn’t finish a late rally in a 3-1 loss on a perfect, sun-drenched afternoon at Safeco Field.

After getting shut down for seven innings by Archer, the Mariners put together a minor two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth against interim closer Kevin Jepsen. Mark Trumbo reached on an error and Logan Morrison singled to put runners on the corners. But Jepsen got Brad Miller to fly out to right field to end the game, notching his fourth save of the season.

TUESDAY

Mariners @ Cleveland, 4:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

It ended an abysmal homestand for Seattle. The Mariners finished their longest stretch at home with a 2-9 record. Any memories of a 6-3 trip leading into it have been erased like so many of the Mariners’ scoring opportunities.

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“It’s just baseball,” Nelson Cruz said of the struggles. “You can’t explain how it works. It’s weird. We do all we can physically do to get it done. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there.”

Maybe it will appear on the road and after the Mariners’ only off day in a 37-game stretch that started May 19.

Seattle will be game-free Monday before opening an eight-game, three-city trip starting Tuesday in Cleveland with a three-game series.

“It’s big,” Cruz said. “We need it. We need to regroup. I think we’ve got to refind the focus, especially in the situations we struggle — with runners on in scoring position. We kind of need this. It’s welcome.”

Any change is welcome for a team that has struggled to score runs and get hits with runners in scoring position, and has failed to score more than three runs in their last 12 games, managing one run or fewer in four of them.

“When it matters the most to drive in runs, we haven’t been getting it done,” Cruz said.

Archer was brilliant. He allowed just one unearned run on six hits in his seven innings, while striking out 11 and walking none. It was Archer’s third straight start of 10 strikeouts or more with no walks — something no pitcher has done in the modern era (since 1900).

“I thought we had real good at-bats against Archer, who is a dominant type of pitcher and can really shut you down,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed to. He certainly dialed it up when he needed to.”

In what amounts to a moral victory, the Mariners’ scored a run against Archer with two outs in the seventh, breaking a string of 221/3 scoreless innings against him, which dates to 2013.

Cruz led off with a single and the Mariners got a break when Kyle Seager’s soft liner was somehow missed by shifted-over shortstop Nick Franklin for an error. From there, it appeared that the Mariners would end the inning scoreless as they did in the fourth inning after getting runners on first and second with no outs.

In the seventh, Trumbo popped out to shallow right field and Morrison struck out for the second out. It drew groans from the crowd of 27,906, who had seen it before.

But Miller lined a single to left field on a 2-2 count to score Cruz from second.

That was all Seattle would get.

Rookie Mike Montgomery (0-1) took the loss, but gave the Mariners a solid outing, pitching seven innings and allowing two runs on five hits, a walk and three strikeouts.

In his second major-league start and facing the team that traded him to the Mariners, Montgomery looked a little shaky in the first inning. He walked leadoff hitter Jake Elmore and then gave up back-to-back, one-out singles to Joey Butler and Logan Forsythe to allow a run to score. By the time he got Steven Souza Jr. and Mikie Mahtook to fly out to end the inning, he had thrown 30 pitches.

“I felt pretty excited,” Montgomery said. “I was a little amped. I was just trying to find the zone and I was a little bit wild in the inning. I was just trying to battle.”

He showed poise despite his lack of big-league experience. He came back with a 1-2-3 second inning, needing just 13 pitches. From there he found a rhythm, working ahead and getting outs.

“I thought he settled down and threw the ball pretty good,” McClendon said. “The changeup came around and the breaking ball came around and he was in and out with his fastball. I was pleased with his outing.”

He got some help from Miller in the third inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Montgomery got a soft comebacker to the mound, he fired high to second base. Miller made a leaping grab, then tagged the base and fired to first. The initial call on the field was that Forsythe was safe at first. But replays reversed the call and the M’s were out of the inning.

“That was real big,” Montgomery said. “He made a nice play and any time you get a double play, it’s a good thing.”

From there, Montgomery retired the next 10 batters. But a fastball left over the plate to Mahtook turned into a solo homer to left-center and a 2-0 lead for the Rays.

The Mariners cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh on Miller’s hit, but his throwing error to start the eighth eventually led to a run on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.