By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — What a waste if this one had slipped away from the Mariners.
Playing again without injured Robinson Cano, they got six strong innings from starting pitcher Chris Young and two clutch singles from Willie Bloomquist — and then held on Saturday night for a 3-2 victory over Detroit at Safeco Field.
Fernando Rodney closed out the victory with a thrill-ride ninth for his 14th save in 16 chances as the Mariners closed out a winning May, at 16-14, for just the third time since 2003.
“A walk in the park,” Bloomquist deadpanned. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Rod when he’s out there. Obviously, you don’t like to put the first two guys on, but if anyone can get out of that sort of stuff, he can.”
Rodney steadied after a leadoff walk to Alex Avila, who was replaced by Danny Worth as a pinch-runner, and a bloop single by Don Kelly.
Andrew Romine failed twice to execute a sacrifice bunt before striking out. Rodney then battled through 10 pitches against Rajai Davis for another strikeout.
Rodney ended the game by getting Ian Kinsler to ground into a force at second. Then an arrow-shoot pantomime to the cheers of 37,142.
“Tonight,” Rodney said, “everybody’s happy.”
Young (5-2) carried a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning but exited after Austin Jackson’s leadoff double to deep left. It was only the third hit against Young, but it came on his 106th pitch.
“He was tough,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s pitched well in this park. He’s throwing 86 to 88 (mph), but he’s got really good down angle, really good finish … His 86-88 is probably more like 90-92.”
Charlie Furbush replaced Young and lasted long enough to retire Avila on a grounder to second that moved Young to third.
Then it was Dominic Leone, who walked Nick Castellanos after jumping ahead 1-2 in the count — and threw a run-scoring wild pitch on the fourth ball.
That run was charged to Young, whose final line showed two runs and three hits in six-plus innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
Leone retired Romine on a fly to left but surrendered an infield single to Davis. The Tigers, at that point, sent Kelly in to run for Castellanos at second.
Kinsler then sent a drive to deep left that Cole Gillespie caught deep on the track before slamming into the wall. Kinsler slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration.
“I felt I got a pretty good jump on it,” Gillespie said. “It actually carried farther than I thought. I thought I had more room. But once I caught the ball, obviously, I hit the wall quite quick.”
Yoervis Medina started the eighth inning by striking out Torii Hunter, but Miguel Cabrera grounded a hard single into center. Victor Martinez followed with a rocket to right that Endy Chavez caught with a leap at the wall.
Medina ended the inning by striking out Jackson.
Bloomquist had two-out RBI singles in the second and fourth innings against Detroit starter Drew Smyly — and it continued two extended trends.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Bloomquist is batting .414 (41-for-99) with runners in scoring position. He is also a .348 hitter (57-for-164) throughout his career against the Tigers.
“Just trying to get good pitches to hit,” Bloomquist said. “For me, that’s the biggest challenge right now — make sure I swing at strikes. Without consistent reps, you’re up swinging at a lot of stuff at times you shouldn’t be.”
The Mariners opened the scoring in the second inning after one-out singles by Stefen Romero and John Buck put runners at first and third. Gillespie sent a slow nubber to second that turned into an RBI single.
Smyly (2-4) struck out Nick Franklin, but Bloomquist yanked a full-count fastball through the left side that scored Buck from second for a 2-0 lead.
Young retired the first eight Tigers before walking Davis with two outs in the third, but he retired Kinsler on a fly to short center.
“I’m just trying to go out and make good pitches,” Young said. “It’s redundant. I know I say it every time but, really, it’s what I try to do.”
The Tigers got their first hit, and run, when Cabrera crushed an 0-2 fastball for a one-out homer in the fourth. It caromed off the stairs between the scoreboards beyond the left-field walls.
“He’s an unbelievable hitter,” Young said. “There’s no real way to try to get him out. You just kind of get lucky.”
That luck, for the Mariners, held through Rodney’s final pitch.
“I’ve said all along,” manager Lloyd McClendon noted, “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Today, we were fortunate. We got some seeing-eye hits. It’s about time we get our share of those.”