SEATTLE — All for nothing.
Eight masterful innings by Hisashi Iwakuma slipped away Tuesday night when Fernando Rodney yielded two runs in the ninth inning in what, for the Seattle Mariners, was a numbing 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.
Rodney served up a leadoff homer to David DeJesus but retired the next two hitters before three straight singles produced the winning run. It was a nightmarish first appearance by Rodney against his former club.
Matt Joyce’s third single of the game scored pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez from second. Rodney exited, to loud boos, after a walk loaded the bases.
Danny Farquhar stranded the three runners by striking out Ryan Hanigan, but the damage was done.
Rays ace David Price (4-3) closed out a complete game with a scoreless ninth. Rodney (1-2) had
recorded saves in 11 of his 12 previous opportunities.
Iwakuma delivered eight dazzling innings in a marquee pitching matchup against Price before DeJesus greeted Rodney by sending a 96-mph fastball into the right-field seats.
It got worse with two outs.
James Loney poked a single into center. Desmond Jennings followed with a hard grounder through shortstop Brad Miller for a single that moved Rodriguez to second.
Joyce sent a sinking liner into center for an RBI single.
It was terrific stuff for eight innings.
The Mariners nicked Price for one run in the first inning, and Iwakuma made it stand up. All that was needed was for Rodney to close out the 1-0 victory.
It didn’t happen.
Iwakuma yielded four hits in eight innings while striking out five and walking none. He lowered his ERA to 1.59 and stretched his scoreless streak at Safeco to 24 innings.
Price was nearly as good as Iwakuma — better in some ways, because he had to pitch around multiple scoring threats. The Mariners were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Those missed chances bit hard when Rodney stumbled.
Iwakuma pitched out of a jam in the eighth after Joyce opened the inning by beating an over-shifted infield with a ground single through the left side. Yunel Escobar’s grounder to short resulted in a force at second.
Hanigan batted for Jose Molina and flied to left before Iwakuma ended the inning by striking out Wil Myers on a full-count slider. But that capped a 24-pitch inning that pushed Iwakuma to 97 pitches.
Iwakuma began the game by serving up a Myers fly that pushed left fielder Dustin Ackley to the wall. DeJesus followed with a double past center fielder James Jones.
Then, Iwakuma steadied. Evan Longoria sent a routine fly to right, and Ben Zobrist grounded to second.
Jones opened the Mariners’ first with a double past third on an 0-2 fastball. He went third on Stefen Romero’s slow hopper to first. That prompted the Rays to shorten their infield for Robinson Cano.
It didn’t matter — even though Cano sent grounder to first. James Loney looked toward the plate, saw he had little chance of getting Jones and took the out at first. The Mariners led 1-0.
Ackley’s two-out double in the second inning, which sailed over Joyce’s head in left, provided another chance, but Price struck out Mike Zunino on three pitches.
Cano started the fourth by whacking a full-count fastball into the left-center gap for a double, which also extended his streak of reaching base at least once to 22 games.
Price responded by striking out Corey Hart and Justin Smoak before retiring Kyle Seager on a pop.
Iwakuma retired 13 in a row after DeJesus’ double before Joyce lined a two-out single to right in the fifth inning.
Joyce moved to second when Escobar punched a single into center, but Iwakuma held the lead when Molina popped to second.
Zunino provided the Mariners with a threat in their fifth with a one-out double to right-center, but Brad Miller and Jones each took third strikes. That kept it 1-0; the Mariners at 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Cano’s one-out bloop single in the sixth was the first hit allowed by Price that wasn’t a double — but a wild pitch moved Cano to second, and he went to third on Hart’s slow grounder to short.
Again, Price escaped. Smoak popped to short; 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Price then erased Ackley’s one-out single in the seventh with a pickoff.
ROMERO FLOURISHES IN LARGER ROLE
Rookie outfielder Stefen Romero is starting to reap the benefits from more regular duty in the Mariners’ lineup.
“The more at-bats you get day in and day out,” he said, “the more you feel that sense of comfort. You get in a routine every day. Luckily, that’s what it’s been.”
It’s a cyclical thing, of course. Better results lead to more playing time, which can then lead to better results. Rinse, repeat.
“I didn’t really have a consistent routine (when not playing regularly),” Romero said. “Now, since Saundo (Mike Saunders) is a little banged up, I’m in there a little more.
“It gives me a little more of an opportunity to stay consistent.”
Romero, 25, entered Tuesday at 10-for-32 in his last nine starts after delivering his first career three-hit game in Monday’s 12-5 victory over Tampa Bay at Safeco Field. He went 0-for-4 on Tuesday.
That recent surge also included Romero’s first two career homers.
“When you swing the bat like that,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “you’re going to play.”
For now, at least.
Saunders is still nursing a hyperextended left knee, which he suffered Saturday when he tripped and fell while chasing a fly ball. But when Saunders is again healthy?
That depends on whether Romero continues to hit.
BACK ON THE BUMP
Left-hander James Paxton and righty Taijuan Walker had bullpen workouts from a mound before Wednesday’s game in their ongoing recovery from injuries.
Plans call for Paxton to mix in more curveballs, but probably no cutters, in a 45-pitch session that marked his third bullpen session in his rehab from a strained back muscle (left latissimus dorsi).
If all goes well, he is likely to progress to pitching in simulated games by the weekend.
Walker is slotted for 35 pitches in a second bullpen workout following his latest recurrence of shoulder soreness. He will be limited to fastballs and change-ups.
Paxton was diagnosed with a strained lat after his removal from the April 8 game against the Angels. Walker has battled shoulder soreness since early in spring training.
Outfielder Michael Saunders shows improvement in his recovery from a hyperextended left knee, but manager Lloyd McClendon said he hopes not to use him until the upcoming trip. ... Outfielder/DH Logan Morrison again tested his strained right hamstring by running the bases. He did so Monday for the first time suffering the email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners