KANSAS CITY, MO. — Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon made it clear prior to Sunday’s game against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium: He didn’t want to use closer Fernando Rodney for a fourth consecutive day.
“Ideally, I don’t like to pitch guys more than three days in a row,” McClendon said. “We’ll see. I would doubt very seriously he’ll be in the game.”
But with a one-run lead to protect in the ninth for a three-game weekend sweep, McClendon turned to Rodney…and three out later, the Mariners had a 2-1 victory and a weekend sweep.
Lefty Roenis Elias (7-5) got the victory by outpitching Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura (5-6) in a match-up between two rookies. Rodney’s save was his 21st in 23 chances.
The Mariners led 2-1 when Omar Infante led off the eighth with a single against Yoervis Medina, which prompted a bullpen call for Charlie Furbush, who made one pitch — Eric Hosmer lined out to second.
In came Danny Farquhar, who balked Infante to second before delivering a pitch. Farquhar then retired Billy Butler on a liner to second before striking out Alex Gordon on three pitches.
That got the game to the ninth.
It was 1-1 when Mike Zunino opened the seventh inning by turning on a 1-2 curve and driving it 402 feet for a homer. Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller followed with singles.
Ventura turned Willie Bloomquist’s bid for a sacrifice into a force at third — and that stemmed the momentum. Endy Chavez flied to left, and James Jones grounded out to second.
The Royals responded later in the inning after Justin Maxwell beat an overshifted infield for a one-out single through the right side. Pedro Ciriaco followed with a bunt — and he was initially called safe.
The Mariners appealed and, after 3 minutes and 4 seconds, the call was overturned. That left the tying run on second with two outs, which prompted a pitching change: Medina replaced Elias.
Lorenzo Cain flied out to center.
Elias’ line showed one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts. Ventura exited after seven innings; he allowed two runs and six hits while striking out six and walking two.
Ventura needed just seven pitches to retire the Mariners in the first inning. Elias then opened the Royals’ first with a six-pitch walk to Cain before retiring the next three on four pitches.
Elias found bigger trouble in the second when singles by Gordon and Salvy Perez put runners at first and second with no outs.
Gordon moved to third on Danny Valencia fly to center and scored on Justin Maxwell’s sacrifice fly to center. It was the Royals’ first lead of the series.
The Mariners got a one-out double in the third from Bloomquist, who went to third on Chavez’s grounder to second. Ventura held the lead by striking out Jones.
Zunino started the fifth with a line-hugging double into the left-field corner. Ventura retired Ackley and Miller on fly balls to center, but Bloomquist sliced an RBI double to right that stayed just fair.
The Mariners were even at 1-1.