The Mariners passed the season’s one-quarter mark Friday with a flourish. Barely. The 4-3 win over the Blue Jays (19-25) at Rogers Centre (box score) pushed Seattle to 19-22. But not before closer Fernando Rodney allowed a two-run homer to RF Chris Colabello in the ninth inning. In Rodney fashion, he came up with the final two outs.
A day after going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and leaving 13 on base, the Mariners broke through in the top of the fourth inning against Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (1-3).
Trailing 1-0, Kyle Seager started the two-out rally with a single. Welington Castillo walked. Logan Morrison followed with a shallow liner that Colabello mistakenly dove toward. The ball bounced past him and Morrison ended up with a two-RBI triple. C Mike Zunino bounced an RBI double down the left-field line to make it 3-1
Nelson Cruz hit his MLB-leading 17th home run, a solo shot, in the sixth inning off Estrada fora 4-1 lead. Cruz hadadouble in the first and went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .354, tops in the American League.
The Mariners had six hits but went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Hernandez paid for one mistake — a center-cut slider that Edwin Encarnacion lined over the left-field wall in the first inning for a solo homer.
Other than that, Hernandez was stellar. His line of seven innings, one run, four hits, eight strikeouts and two walks helped him improve to 7-1 and dropped his ERA to 2.19. Of his 97 pitches, 62 were strikes. His seven wins lead the majors.
He also avenged his Sept. 23, 2014 loss to the Blue Jays, when he allowed eight runs, four earned, over 4.2 innings in a start that might have cost him the AL Cy Young Award to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. It also proved crushing to the Mariners when they lost out on the second AL wild card to the Oakland Athletics by a single game.
RHP Carson Smith worked a scoreless eighth and Rodney (6.61 ERA) delivered his 11th save in 12 chances despite another shaky ninth.
After Colabello’s homer cut it to 4-3, CF Kevin Pillar laid a perfect bunt along the first-base line. Morrison fielded and applied the tag, but Pillar was ruled safe with a head-first dive. The Mariners challenged and the call was reversed after replay reviews showed Morrison tagged Pillar’s foot.
Rodney fell behind Josh Donaldson 3-0, but he flew out to center for the final out.
Manager Lloyd McClendon, sarcastically, on Rodney’s dramatic ninth: “What happened? I didn’t see it. I was inside smoking a cigarette so I couldn’t tell you.”
He added: “Listen, the guy’s good. lot of times he doesn’t make it look pretty and it gets your heart rate racing a little bit, but he’s 11 out of 12.”
Brad Miller started in center field Friday for the first time in his big-league career and batted leadoff. No ball came his way and Justin Ruggiano replaced him in the seventh. “He’s a good athlete. He plays short. He can certainly catch a popup in the outfield,” McClendon said pre-game of Miller. “Now he may mess up from time to time, but, hell, he messes up at short from time to time. What’s the difference?” . . . Castillo got the start Friday at designated hitter, going 1-for-3 with a run in his second game since being traded from the Cubs for reliever Yoervis Medina . . . Entering Friday, the Mariners rotation over the past 30 days had a 3.05 ERA, lowest in the major leagues. The Angels were second at 3.07 and the Rays were third at 3.26 . . . The Mariners are 2-2 on their nine-game road trip.
LHP James Paxton (2-2, 3.59 ERA) will attempt to continue his 20-inning scoreless streak — tied for longest in MLB this season — when the Mariners face the Blue Jays at 10:07 a.m. PT Saturday at Rogers Centre. Toronto counters with fellow southpaw Mark Buehrle (5-3, 5.36 ERA).