By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — You expect pop from a designated hitter, don’t you?
Endy Chavez hit his first home run in more than a year Friday night in helping the Mariners open their weekend series against Cleveland with a 3-2 victory at Safeco Field.
“When I hit it,” Chavez said, “I thought it was going to hit the fence. It was a line drive. From the beginning, I was running hard to make sure I got to second.
“Before I got to first base, I saw the ball was in the stands. I thought, `OK, I’ll take it.’”
Add Chavez’s blast — it was a no-doubter — to a pair of two-out RBI singles from Kyle Seager and Brad Miller, along with four staunch innings from the bullpen…and then a post-game fireworks show.
It was just enough to ensure a good night.
The Mariners won for the sixth time in seven games and improved to 43-37. They scored all three runs against Indians starter Trevor Bauer (2-4), who exited after Chavez’s one-out homer in the the seventh inning.
“How about Endy?” manager Lloyd McClendon chuckled. “Pretty good swing.”
Chris Young (7-4) lasted just five innings, while throwing 91 pitches, but he limited the Indians to one run and four hits. The Mariners used five relievers over the final four innings.
“It’s a good-hitting club,” Young said. “They made me work. I wasn’t as sharp and I’d like to be, and I probably got a little lucky tonight. They hit some balls hard but right at guys.
“Then the bullpen came in and did a phenomenal job.”
Fernando Rodney closed out the victory for his 22nd save in 24 chances. The relief corps, which leads the American League in earned run average, has allowed just 20 earned runs in its last 108 2/3 innings.
Rodney gave up one run in the ninth before ending the game and firing his pantomime arrow into the air.
“Our pitching has been dominant,” first baseman Logan Morrison said. “Our defense has been really good, too. As long as we keep those two things going, you always have a chance to win games.”
The Mariners finished with 11 hits, including three more by Seager, who raised his average to .274. Michael Saunders was 2-for-4 in his first game back after missing more than two weeks because of a sore shoulder.
Joe Beimel started the bullpen relay when he inherited a 2-1 lead from Young to start the sixth and worked a one-two-three inning. Danny Farquhar put the tying run on base in the seventh with a one-out walk to Nick Swisher.
With two outs, Michael Bourn hit a grounder to first that Morrison booted — but Swisher tried for third, and Morrison recovered in time to throw him out.
“I knew I had to hurry,” Morrison said. “I don’t know if I was going to get (Bourn) even if I’d fielded it clean. He’s really fast. I couldn’t really get a hop that I wanted, and it hit off my glove.
“I’m lucky I did kick it or it would have been behind me. I saw Swish running, so I just flipped it to Seag.”
Chavez’s homer came with one out in the bottom of the inning — a lofted drive to right that easily cleared the wall for a 3-1 lead. It was Chavez’s first homer in 266 plate appearances dating to May 30, 2013 at San Diego.
“I was just trying to have an aggressive swing,” he said. “That time, I was looking for something in. He was, pretty much, throwing in to me. He threw a slider that I could handle.
“I put a pretty good swing on it, and the ball just got out.”
Yoervis Medina got two outs in the eighth and was ahead 0-2 on Carlos Santana before issuing a walk. That brought a change to Charlie Furbush for a left-on-left matchup against Jason Kipnis.
A double put runners at second and third, but Furbush stranded both runners when Lonnie Chisenhall grounded to second.
The Mariners had a chance to extend their lead in the eighth when singles by Seager and Morrison put runners at first and third with no outs. Instead, they squandered the chance: two pop-ups and a routine fly ball.
Turned out, it didn’t matter.