At some point, presumably, the Seattle Mariners will decide they can’t wait any longer for veteran reliever Fernando Rodney to find his 2014 form.
Rodney wasn’t around at the end when Toronto pulled out an 8-6 victory Saturday by scoring two runs in the ninth against Carson Smith. But there’s little doubt where the near-sellout crowd at Safeco Field placed blame.
Fair or not, Rodney was the target. He blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning by yielding a two-run pinch homer to Ezequiel Carrera and now sports a 5.90 ERA through his 42 appearances.
“There have been a lot of incidents that have happened this year,” Rodney said, “but I’m not going to put my head down. I’m going to continue. Sometimes, you have a tough year.”
So, again, how long can the Mariners let this continue?
“That’s certainly something we have to discuss,” manager Lloyd McClendon admitted, “and try to get him straightened out some kind of way. Because these are tough losses when these things happen.”
The Mariners are 4-5 since the All-Star break, with four of the losses coming against the bullpen in the eighth inning or later.
After tying the game against Rodney in the eighth, the Blue Jays beat Smith (1-3) in the ninth on Chris Colabello’s two-run single.
Smith began the inning by walking Josh Donaldson, who went to third on Jose Bautista’s double into the right-field corner. An intentional walk to Edwin Encarnacion loaded the bases with no outs.
“That’s probably the worst thing you can do,” Smith said, “walk the leadoff guy, especially in that part of the lineup. That’s a tough-hitting club. You’ve got to get ahead, and I didn’t do that today.”
The Mariners shortened their infield with the bases loaded in hopes of getting a play at the plate, but Colabello wrecked the strategy by grounding a two-run single up the middle.
“Obviously, I know the book on (Smith) is that he's a power-sinker guy,” Colabello said. “So I was kind of looking for that. After he messed up the first one, I knew it was going to be there for me.”
Joe Beimel replaced Smith at that point and finished the inning with no further damage. But the Jays had the lead, and Roberto Osuna pitched a scoreless ninth for a save.
Aaron Sanchez (6-4) got the victory after pitching a scoreless eighth. A starter, he was activated earlier in the day from the disabled list.
McClendon blamed Smith’s trouble on overuse.
“The workload has probably been too much of late,” McClendon said. “Three out of three and five out of eight. That’s just too many days for him.”
Smith dismissed fatigue as a factor.
“I felt great,” he said. “I felt as good as any other day, so I’m not going to use that as an excuse.”
This was a game of wild swings. The Mariners scored first, but the Blue Jays knocked out J.A. Happ in a three-run second inning. The Mariners pulled even with single runs in the second and third innings.
Robinson Cano’s three-run homer gave the Mariners a 6-3 lead before Toronto scratched one run back in the sixth against Tom Wilhelmsen.
That got the game to Rodney, with a 6-4 lead, in the eighth.
Boy, it got away in a hurry.
Rodney began the inning by walking Russell Martin before serving up a no-doubt pinch homer to Carrera on full-count fastball. It was Carrera’s second homer of the season in 132 at-bats.
“I made a good pitch (before the homer),” Rodney said. “I think it was a strike. The change-up (was called a ball by umpire Jim Joyce). That’s my pitch. The next pitch …”
Jose Reyes just missed a two-out homer on a ball that hooked foul at the right-field line before grounding out. Loud boos from the crowd of 45,027 accompanied Rodney and the Mariners to the dugout.
Happ put an already-stretched bullpen in a tight spot by exiting in a three-run second inning. He permitted just one hit but hit a batter and walked four, including two with the bases loaded.
“I think anything I would say would sound like an excuse,” Happ said, “and I don’t make those. It was a situation where I didn’t get it done. I’ve just got to flush this one and be ready to go next time.”
Vidal Nuno and Wilhelmsen limited the Jays to one run in 51/3 innings after Happ exited. That gave the Mariners a chance to rally — and they did.
Homers by Jesus Sucre and Cano boosted the Mariners to a 6-3 lead going to the sixth. Wilhelmsen gave one run back but worked a scoreless seventh. In came Rodney with a two-run lead against the bottom of the Jays’ lineup.
Two hitters later, it was tied.
“That’s baseball,” Rodney said. “It happens. I don’t know (when it’s going to change). I’m going to try (to be better). We’ll see.”