Not even Fernando Rodney could muck this up.
The Mariners rode seven innings of one-run ball from RHP Taijuan Walker, eked out just enough offense against RHP Matt Shoemaker and received a scoreless ninth from Rodney to earn a 3-1 win (box score) over the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a three-game series Friday night in Anaheim.
Rarely has second baseman Robinson Cano made a pitcher pay for a hanging breaking ball in what’s been his most frustrating season at the plate. That changed in the eighth when RHP Fernando Salas delivered a high curveball that Cano blasted into the right field seats for his fourth homer of the season, giving the Mariners a 3-1 lead.
The Mariners pounded out nine hits but continued to pucker up with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-9 and leaving six on base.
The good news: Struggling SS Brad Miller went 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. RF/DH Nelson Cruz went 2-for-4, including an RBI double, and recently-acquired Mark Trumbo showed signs of a pulse with a double in his first game at Angel Stadium since being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013.
Walker allowed a solo homer to CF Mike Trout in the bottom of the first. That was it. The 22-year-old allowed one run, seven hits and no walks over seven innings as he improved to 6-6, his fourth consecutive win.
No sequence was bigger for Walker than the bottom of the sixth, when Trout led off with a single and Albert Pujols was hit by a wayward change-up. After Erick Aybar executed a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third, Walker (4.64 ERA) countered by striking out David Freese and inducing a Matt Joyce flyout to preserve a 2-1 lead.
After LHP Charlie Furbush got the first out of the eighth, McClendon brought in reliever Carson Smith to face Trout and Pujols. They went single, walk, before Johnny Giavotella grounded into a double play. Rodney worked the ninth. McClendon’s reasoning:
“I just thought in the eighth inning that was probably the biggest moment in the game with those two big monsters coming up,” McClendon said of Trout and Pujols. “(Smith) had handled them very well in the past. I wanted the guy in the game at that particular time.
“Listen, I didn’t anoint (Smith) the closer. I’m not saying that Rodney is going back to being the closer. I’m going to continue to do what we’re doing and put the best guy in there that I think gives us the best chance to win a ballgame.”
Rehabbing RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 6.61 ERA) is close to returning to the Mariners after throwing four shutout innings Thursday for Triple-A Tacoma. Iwakuma will make another rehab start Tuesday against Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium. If the Mariners decide he’s ready, he’s in line to start July 5 against the Oakland Athletics. Iwakuma, 34, strained his right lat muscle April 21, the day after allowing four runs against the Houston Astros. . . In his past rehab start, Iwakuma was frustrated with his mechanics, but he managed to fan four, walk one and give up three hits while showing a fastball that reached the low 90s, according to The News Tribune . . . Rodney’s scoreless ninth Friday helped him pick up his 15th save.
The Mariners continue their nine-game road trip Saturday in Anaheim with a 4:15 first pitch. LHP J.A. Happ (3-4, 3.78 ERA) goea against Angels RHP Garrett Richards (7-5, 3.66 ERA). Happ has lost his past three starts, posting a 6.08 ERA and a .351 batting average against to cap a stretch of eight consecutive outings without a win. The game will be televised on FOX.