The Mariners parlayed three singles and a bases-loaded double into three runs off former Cy Young winner David Price in the third inning, received a stellar effort from the bullpen, and defeated Tampa Bay 3-0 Monday at Tropicana Field, concluding at 6-1 the best Seattle road trip in more than a decade. The Mariners won a makeup at New York, swept a two-game set from Atlanta and took three of four from the Rays.
Not since 2003, when the Mariners posted an 11-1 mark from May 27-June 8 during an excursion through Kansas City, Minnesota, Philadelphia and New York (NL), have they had a better trip by winning percentage.
The Mariners (34-29), who return to Safeco Field Tuesday five games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season, won three in a row, eight of nine and 10 of 16. They have not allowed a run in 19 innings. They are also 15-6 in their past 21 road games and 17-9 against left-handed starters this season after getting to Price in the third.
Good thing they did. because the Mariners could barely touch the former Cy Young winner after that, underscored by Price’s 10 strikeouts (to one walk), which included Mike Zunino’s career nadir, a four-whiff golden sombrero.
But in the third, a Robinson Cano opposite-field double scored John Buck and Willie Bloomquist, both of whom reached with singles. Stefan Romero’s ground ball out plated James Jones, aboard on a bunt single.
The Mariners found themselves fortunate to be ahead against Price, given that Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez escaped jam after pickle. He had runners aboard in every inning due to five walks, his biggest trouble spot in the fourth.
After ceding consecutive singles to David DeJesus and Matt Joyce, Ramirez fanned Yunel Escobar and Jose Molina and induced a ground ball from Desmond Jennings that Cano backhanded. Cano’s throw barely nipped Jennings at first (following an official review), allowing Ramirez to avoid a bases-loaded jam and get out of the inning.
Ramirez’s undoing, such as it was, came in the fifth when he surrendered a two-out double to James Loney and walked Ben Zobrist, his fifth free pass. Manager Lloyd McClendon applied the hook and Joe Beimel struck out Jerry Sands to end the threat.
From there, Dominic Leone (0.2 IP), Danny Farquhar (2.0) and Fernando Rodney (1.0) worked 3.2 innings of scoreless relief, giving the Mariners their fourth shutout in nine games (and fifth of the season). The key: Ramirez and relievers held Tampa Bay to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 Rays.
“Our last seven or eight starts have been pretty darned good, but our bullpen has been even better,” said McClendon. “That’s why this has been a nice road trip for us. And we finished it against one of the toughest lefties in baseball.”
Of the seven hits off Price, three came from James Jones, the rookie who hiked his average to .291.
“He’s been great, learning every day,” said McClendon. “He’s going to have his ups and downs. He had a great bunt today and he also had a lousy bunt. But I like what I see. He’s on his way to becoming a pretty good major league player.”
“It’s a lot of fun right now,” said Jones, who finished 3-for-4, stole a base and scored a run. “But it will be definitely be good to get back to Safeco Field and play in front of our home crowd.”
Rodney, who notched his second save of the series and fourth on the trip, has 18 in 20 opportunities.
The American League Tuesday named Felix Hernandez its Player of the Week for the period ending June 8. Hernandez went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, 23 strikeouts and one walk in starts against the Yankees and Rays. The award is the first for Hernandez since Aug. 20, 2012, following his perfect game against Tampa Bay. Hernandez is the second Seattle player named this season, following Kyle Seager for the week of April 21-27 . . . Cano, who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk, is hitting .370 since May 3 . . . Justin Smoak, still nursing a sore quad, played one inning as a defensive replacement, but Michael Saunders sat out again with a sore shoulder for the third game in a row.
NEXT: The Mariners return to Safeco Field Tuesday night to begin an eight-game home stand, starting with three against the Yankees. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-2, 2.66) will pitch the opener, opposing countryman and phenom RHP Masahiro Tanaka (9-1, 2.02).