Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon pulled out the vintage reserve against his former team and stole a victory, 3-2, over the Detroit Tigers in front of 37,142 at Safeco Field Saturday night. McClendon emptied his bench, playing outfielders Cole Gillespie, Stefen Romero and Endy Chavez to go with catcher John Buck and utility infielder Willie Bloomquist.
It was Bloomquist, getting his 14th start — this time in place of second baseman Robinson Cano, again out with a sore hand — who came up with the critical hits in the second of a three-game series with Detroit (31-21).
“Willie had a pretty darned good game,” McClendon said. “We didn’t hit (Drew Smyly) all that hard. But I’ve said all along, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Today we were fortunate. We had some seeing-eye hits. It’s about time we had our fair share of those, too.”
Bloomquist delivered RBI singles in the second and fourth innings, the latter the decisive run. The 36-year-old went 2-for-4 with two RBI.
The run held up after Fernando Rodney earned his 14th save of the season with a little more drama than the Mariners wished for. Rodney walked leadoff hitter Alex Avila, then watched as Don Kelly dropped in a broken-bat blooper that fell in front of a pulled-back Gillespie, playing deep in a no-doubles defense.
After a quick conference on the mound, Rodney bore down to strike out the next two batters and get Ian Kinsler to ground out to short to end the game.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Rod when he’s out there,” Bloomquist said. “Obviously, we don’t like to put the first two guys on like that, but if anyone can get out that sort of stuff, he can. He’s got A-plus stuff and he’s awful tough when he dials it up a notch.”
Seattle (27-28) made Smyly work over his four innings, elevating his pitch count to 105 despite tallying just seven hits and one walk. Smyly struck out five and allowed all three runs.
While the offense did just enough to scratch some runs across against Smyly, the team was led by another outstanding performance by Chris Young.
“I think I used all the adjectives last time I talked about him,” McClendon said of Young. “The guy is phenomenal. He knows his game plan, he knows what he wants to do and he follows it pretty good.”
Young (5-2, 3.27 ERA) entered with the second-lowest home ERA in the American League at 1.65. It rose to 1.89 after allowing two runs on three hits in six-plus innings of work, Saturday. Young walked two and struck out six.
Prior to his start, Young got as much information regarding the Detroit lineup as he could from McClendon, scoured scouting reports and put together a plan with Buck that he executed to perfection.
The Mariners took a 2-0 lead in the second inning after four singles, with Gillespie and Bloomquist each collecting an RBI. The lead was cut in half in the fourth inning when Miguel Cabrera hit his 10th home run off the scoreboard in left field. It didn’t faze Young, however. The tall right-hander responded by retiring Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson.
In the bottom half, Bloomquist delivered a two-out RBI single scoring Gillespie.
A second run was charged to Young’s ledger in the sixth when Austin Jackson led off with a double and reliever Dominic Leone allowed Jackson to score on a wild pitch. The Mariners failed to tack on runs in the seventh and eighth innings against the Tigers’ bullpen.
Seattle is 5-5 over its longest homestand of the season with hope of making it a winning one Sunday in the rubber game against last year’s American League Cy Young award winner, Max Scherzer.
Seattle allowed five home runs this season on 0-2 pitches, tying the AL lead with Houston, Oakland and Tampa Bay . . . By going 2-for-3 Saturday, Gillespie had his first multi-hit game. He is hitting .276.