There’s this between-innings announcement running these days at Safeco Field that tells us that June is National Smith Month.
On Saturday, finally, it didn’t seemed like a twisted joke.
Austin Jackson’s home run in the seventh inning lifted the Seattle Mariners to a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays before relievers Mark Lowe and Carson Smith nursed the slim edge through the final six outs.
The victory snapped a seven-game skid and came just as the Mariners appeared ready to squander a shutdown performance by Felix Hernandez, who gave up one run and two hits in seven innings.
Jackson turned on a full-count pitch from Steve Geltz (1-2) and sent a no-doubt drive over the left-field wall.
It was almost as if Jackson had decided enough was enough. He stood stranded on third after a leadoff triple in the ninth inning of Friday’s 1-0 loss, and his leadoff double in the third inning Saturday produced nothing.
The only run against Hernandez (9-2) came on a wild pitch after Kevin Kiermaier’s one-out triple in the sixth inning. The Mariners have seen their rotation yield just five runs in 30 innings over the past four games.
They finally got a payoff.
Mark Lowe pitched around a two-out single in a scoreless eighth before the Mariners turned to Smith, instead of Fernando Rodney, in the ninth inning.
Smith recorded his first career save.
Tampa Bay starter Alex Colome gave up one run and seven hits in six innings — including a great escape in the fourth inning.
The Mariners had a 1-0 lead — yes, it should have been more — when Kiermaier lined a one-out triple past right fielder Nelson Cruz. While Cruz overthrew the relay man, it’s unlikely the Mariners had a play at third.
That was just the Rays’ second hit against Hernandez, who then bounced a wild pitch on a 2-2 count to Joey Butler that scored the tying run. It also snapped Hernandez’s 21-inning scoreless streak against the Rays.
Hernandez opened the game by walking Kiermaier after being ahead 0-2 in the count. Kiermaier then stole second and third — he was initially called out at third, but a replay challenge overturned the call.
The Rays put runners at first and third when David DeJesus drew a one-out walk. Shortstop Willie Bloomquist made a leaping catch on Logan Forsythe’s liner before Hernandez escaped by striking out Steven Souza.
The Mariners threatened in the second when Seth Smith, with one out, walked on four pitches and went to second on Logan Morrison’s single — a single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
It came to nothing.
Bloomquist’s grounder to third turned into a force at second before Mike Zunino ended the inning by grounding out to short.
Jackson led off the third inning with a double into the left-field corner but held second on Robinson Cano’s weak grounder to short. Jackson went to third on Cruz’s grounder to short.
After an intentional walk to Kyle Seager, Colome held the tie by retiring Mark Trumbo on a grounder to second.
The Mariners got another leadoff double in the fourth, this one from Smith, who went to third on Morrison’s bloop single to left.
Willie Bloomquist then lined an RBI single up the middle for the Mariners’ first run in 17 innings.
Zunino tried to sacrifice but walked instead, which loaded the bases with no outs — but the Mariners got nothing more. Jackson fouled out, and Cano grounded into a double play.
All of that, and just one run.
WAITING ON DRAFT DAY
It’s a different approach this year for Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara and his staff. For the first time since 2010, the team won’t have a marquee pick in the upcoming amateur draft.
The Mariners forfeited their first-round pick when they signed free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz in December after he received a qualifying offer from his former club, the Baltimore Orioles.
As McNamara points out, Cruz amounts to a pretty good first-round pick, but it means the Mariners won’t participate in the draft, which starts Monday, until their second-round selection — No. 60 overall.
Even so, McNamara says “there’s no doubt about it” when asked whether the Mariners can land an impact player.
“There’s a lot of depth from about 20 picks before we pick,” he said, “right up to about 130. One advantage is we’ve seen more players. There’s not a lot of multiple looks when you’re picking 60.”
McNamara also points to the last time the Mariners didn’t have a first-round pick. That was 2010, when they forfeited their pick after signing free agent utilityman Chone Figgins.
“We picked 43rd,” McNamara recalled. “We had one player on our one-through-30 (prospects) board who was No. 16. His magnet was still on the board. It was Taijuan Walker.
“So I keep telling our guys, ‘There might be someone one-through-30 on our board who is there at 60. It happens. It happened in 2010.’ ”
The draft runs Monday through Wednesday and consists of 40 regular rounds, a compensation round (for clubs that lost a player after making a qualifying offer) and two competitive-balance rounds.
The Mariners garnered one of the 12 competitive-balance picks, No. 72 overall, which are determined through a lottery. Clubs in the 10 smallest markets and with the 10 lower revenue streams are eligible.
do the math, rodney
Struggling closer Fernando Rodney, in evaluating his 6.94 ERA, contends he needs to pitch regularly to stay sharp.
“I’m struggling,” he admitted, “but if you look at my last 20 games … I’m supposed to pitch every one or two days. Sometimes, it’s seven days. Eight days. Or five days. To get your stuff back, you have to pitch.”
It might seem that way.
But only three times this season has Rodney sat more than three days between outing. He twice went four days, and once went five days.
The seven times when he pitched with more than two days of rest, he allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings. That’s a 3.86 ERA.
Rodney has pitched 17 times with two or fewer days of rest — and allowed 15 runs and 22 hits in 161/3 innings. That’s an 8.27 ERA.
The numbers get better if Rodney’s “last 20 games” standard is applied. He made 14 appearances in that span with two or fewer days of rest, and allowed nine runs in 14 innings. That’s a 5.79 ERA.
No surprise here. The Mariners entered Saturday ranked last among American League clubs in scoring at 3.51 runs a game and last in batting average with runners in scoring position at .212.
The Mariners, through Friday, had scored 18 runs in nine games on their current 11-game homestand. They were also 10 for 69 with RISP — a .145 average.
Dating back to a 3-0 victory on May 27 at Tampa Bay, the Mariners have scored three or fewer runs in 10 straight games. That’s the third-longest such streak in franchise history.
The Mariners went 12 straight games without scoring at least four runs in 1988, and had an 11-game run in 2010.
Third baseman Kyle Seager, the reigning Gold Glove winner, entered Saturday with a streak of 38 errorless games. He had handled 124 chances without an error since a two-error game on April 25 vs. Minnesota.
Seager set a club record for third basemen with 69 consecutive errorless games from July 27, 2014 to April 15, 2015.
It was 30 years ago Sunday — June 7, 1985 — that rookie Bill Swift, two days after being promoted from Double-A Chattanooga, pitched five scoreless innings of one-hit relief in a 6-4 victory at Cleveland.
Swift, 23, was the second overall pick in the 1984 draft. He spent six seasons with the Mariners before going to San Francisco on Dec. 11, 1991 in a five-player deal.
Swift led the National League the following year with a 2.08 ERA. He spent three years with the Giants and three more with Colorado before returning to the Mariners for his final season in 1998.
Overall, he was 94-78 with a 3.95 ERA in 13 seasons, including 41-49 and 4.33 in seven seasons with the Mariners.
First baseman Logan Morrison entered Saturday with a 12-game hitting streak — one shy of two career-best 13-game streaks. … Tampa Bay optioned right-hander Andrew Bellatti to Triple-A Durham after he worked three scoreless innings Friday and got the victory. The Rays recalled lefty Enny Romero from Durham. … The Mariners’ starting pitchers had an ERA, prior to Saturday, of 3.74. That ranked third among AL clubs, behind Oakland (3.13) and Tampa Bay (3.28)…
The Mariners conclude a 11-game homestand by closing out a four-game series against Tampa Bay at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Lefty Mike Montgomery (0-0, 1.50 ERA) will pitch against Rays ace right-hander Chris Archer (6-4, 2.01).