This is how it is these days for the Seattle Mariners. Nothing comes easy. They were four outs away from notably clean victory Wednesday night with a four-run lead and nobody on base.
And, still, they were holding on at the end before Fernando Rodney performed his latest escape act while closing out a 4-2 victory for Roenis Elias over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
“Heck,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “that’s the usual.”
Elias (1-1) delivered his best start of the season and carried a shutout into the eighth inning before exiting after the Orioles dredged up a pair of two-out singles.
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And he was feeling it.
“When I was in the bullpen,” Elias said, “I knew it was going to be a good outing. I had a good change-up. I hardly threw any curveballs tonight. And I had good command on my fastball.”
But there was something extra; his body language reflected a confidence that he was in full command.
“He’s a very emotional, high-energy pitcher,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “If you can get a couple of things rolling his way, he gets in that rhythm, and that’s what carries him deep into ballgames.”
Fact is, Elias has been solid ever since his April 26 recall from Triple-A Tacoma to replace an injured Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation. Elias has not allowed more than three runs in any of his five starts.
“He’s really pitched well enough to win his first four starts,” McClendon said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t swing the bats for him, but we came out swinging the bats pretty good for him tonight.”
Not great, exactly, but the Mariners cuffed Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen (1-3) for a season-high four earned runs in seven innings.
The key blows were Justin Ruggiano’s two-run homer in the fourth, and Chris Taylor’s RBI triple in the seventh. Ruggiano’s blast came with a runner at third and one out.
“Really, I was just trying to get something to hit up the middle,” he said. “(Chen) painted two fastballs in on me. Once he got two strikes, I think he was thinking, ‘Strikeout.’ So he threw sliders.”
The third one was a hanger, and Ruggiano put a 420-foot charge into it.
Four runs seemed like plenty until the Orioles stirred to life with two outs in the eighth inning.
Elias still had his shutout intact when Rey Navarro and Manny Machado delivered successive singles, but the Mariners went to the bullpen for Carson Smith.
“We had the game where we wanted it,” McClendon said. “We had the guys up that we wanted. It just made sense to go to our bullpen.”
But hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes, who had four RBIs in Tuesday’s opener, yanked an 0-2 pitch into right field for an RBI single. And when Nelson Cruz mishandled the ball, Paredes tried for second.
“I was, ‘Good. Thank you. Go,’ ” Cruz said. “The ball was in time. That’s the only thing you see from (right field).”
Umpire Sam Holbrook called Paredes out at second. The Orioles challenged, but the call was confirmed. It was close.
The ninth was even closer.
Baltimore got the tying run to the plate with no outs against Rodney when Adam Jones and Delmon Young opened the inning with singles.
Rodney worked the count full against Chris Davis but got a borderline called third strike. Rodney then got called third strike on Steve Pearce before J.J. Hardy served an RBI single into center field.
The tying runs were now on base with the potential winning run at the plate, but Rodney secured his 10th save in 11 chances when pinch-hitter Travis Snider, a former standout at Mill Creek’s Jackson High School, grounded out to second.
“He gets it done,” Zunino said of his closer.
Yep, just another late thrill ride from Rodney.