On the heels of another one-run pitching gem from ace Felix Hernandez Monday, veteran right-hander Chris Young matched him Tuesday, leading the Mariners to a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. The second of a three-game series did not have the electric atmosphere of Monday, but a crowd of 26,076 saw Seattle (64-55) move into a tie with Detroit for the second American League wild-card spot.Shaky early, Young (11-6, 3.20 ERA) settled into a groove as the Mariners built a 5-1 lead. In the first inning, he walked leadoff hitter Jose Reyes on four pitches, then Melky Cabrera followed with an RBI double. Despite running Young’s pitch count up to 27, the Blue Jays couldn’t improve the 1-0 lead.
“He shut them down pretty good after that,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought he threw extremely well. It was tough taking him out (after) 95 pitches, but we’ve got to stick with our game plan. Our bullpen has been so good, it just made sense to do that.”
Over the next five frames, Young retired 15 of 17 batters. His pitching allowed Seattle’s offense to size up Toronto starter J.A. Happ. The 31-year-old left-hander made his 18th start of the season since being moved to the rotation in May.
Happ’s story was the opposite of Young’s. He retired the first seven before suffering some misfortune due to a Colby Rasmus third-inning error.
Rasmus misplayed a line drive off the bat of Austin Jackson with two outs, letting the ball drop in front of him, and then booted it, allowing Logan Morrison to score the tying run from first.
During this 7-1 homestand, the Mariners have received contributions throughout the lineup. In the fourth, Kyle Seager hit a two-out homer to right, his 18th and second off a left-handed pitcher. The M’s extended the lead to 4-1 in the fifth thanks to a clutch two-out, two-RBI single to left by Dustin Ackley.
In the sixth inning, Kendrys Morales drove a 2-1 Happ pitch into the Jays bullpen in left field to extend Seattle’s lead. It was Morales’ first home run since joining the Mariners, and second of his season. Happ lasted six inning,s in which he allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits and two walks.
McClendon recognized the sudden depth to his lineup.
“We’re better than we were three weeks ago,” McClendon said. “We’re much more balanced, we’ve got more veterans in there and I think that’s a direct correlation to the 7-1 start at home.”
Toronto made it a game with two eighth-inning runs off the bullpen. Joe Beimel limited the damage, maintaining a 5-3 M’s lead. The Mariners added a run in the bottom half of the inning thanks to another Jays’ error.
Fernando Rodney took care of the rest with a drama-free ninth inning to earn his 34th save and cap another strong pitching performance.
In its last 10 games, Seattle is 8-2 and has not given up more than three runs. Entering the game, its pitching staff led baseball with a 2.97 ERA. If maintained, it would post the lowest team AL ERA over a 162-game season since the 1974 Athletics had a 2.95.
“We’re putting up historical-type of numbers,” McClendon said. “We don’t take that lightly. Our guys are good. My hat’s off to them, but it doesn’t come easy. They worked their tails off to get there.”
LHP Roenis Elias, optioned Aug. 7 in an effort to control his innings total, will start Wednesday for Class AAA Tacoma. The rookie will pitch three or four innings and then re-join the Mariners in Philadelphia . . . Talking about the pitching staff prior to Tuesday’s game, McClendon was excited about the addition of LHP James Paxton to the rotation: “I think he’s going to be special down the stretch for us.” . . . Morrison tied a career-best by extending his hitting streak to 13 games. Morrison went 2-for-3 with a double. He last had a 13-game hitting streak in 2011.