ST. PETERSBURG - Geoff Blum almost was at a loss for words.
The Mariners had just scored three 11th-inning runs to capture a 4-2 victory over the Devil Rays on Thursday at Tropicana Field, and Tampa Bay's third baseman took the blame after his error on Ichiro Suzuki's ground ball allowed the go-ahead run.
"Frustrating?" he said. "Have you seen my entire year? It's been incredibly frustrating. I can't even put it into words."
Especially considering the circumstances.
Blum has been terrific in the field this season. Entering Thursday, he had just four errors in 235 chances for a .983 fielding percentage. He has been so good lately - manager Lou Piniella called his five-assist effort Tuesday against the Red Sox "a clinic" - he was being given a more consistent gig at third base.
The hope was that he also would get his bat going better than the .202 average he had entering the game. Blum was 1-for-4, but no reporter asked him about his at-bats.
But as much as Blum copped to his mistake, that is how much first baseman Tino Martinez reiterated the error was just a small part of the game.
"It definitely wasn't Blum's fault," Martinez said. "He's a great third baseman and makes great plays. That was a tough play right there. A tough hop. That's baseball right there. That's not his fault."
More common this season were the quick, smooth crossover steps Blum used Tuesday to rob Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez of two hits off scorching ground balls.
Blum, who also plays second and shortstop and even played a game in the outfield, had seven assists in the final two games of the Red Sox series.
"That's a professional," infield coach Tom Foley said. "If you're not doing well in one aspect of the game and let it affect the other part of your game, sooner or later you won't be playing the game. So if there's something you do well, you do that well and hopefully the other things come around."
"Hopefully," Blum said before the game, "I'll get to stay in and I'm consistent enough that (Piniella) keeps his faith in me and I'll turn things around at the plate."
STEADY IMPROVEMENT: Right-hander Dewon Brazelton said the key to his turnaround has been simple: He is not afraid to throw strikes.
"That's the biggest thing for a young pitcher, is believing in yourself," Brazelton said. "It's like every time you go out there, your confidence gets better and better."
Brazelton goes for his third consecutive victory tonight against the Mariners. That came after three consecutive losses and a no-decision.
There has been some tinkering with mechanics and a repositioning on the rubber that Piniella said has helped Brazelton's velocity and breaking ball.
"And he's going out there and competing very well," Piniella said. "We've been pleased with his progress."
"When you're confident," Brazelton said, "you go out there and throw strikes to the best location you can."
MINOR MATTERS: Righty Seth McClung, recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitched an inning of scoreless relief with two strikeouts in his first outing for Triple-A Durham after a 30-day rehab assignment at Class A Charleston and Double-A Montgomery. ... Reid Brignac, the Rays' second-round draft pick, had two hits, including a three-run home run, and five RBIs in his debut for Princeton in the Appalachian League.
MORE EXPOSURE: The Rays announced that FSN averaged a 2.0 rating in the Tampa Bay area for Rays games in July, an 81 percent increase over last July's 1.1. A ratings point equals about 16,440 homes.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Mariners' 21 victories are the most at Tropicana Field, one more than Oakland. ... Seattle won its first game on artificial turf in seven tries this season.