SEATTLE — Lloyd McClendon offers a simple answer in defining his in-game responsibilities as the Mariners’ manager: Get the game to All-Star closer Fernando Rodney.
“I’m a believer that once you get your closer in the game in the ninth inning with a lead,” McClendon said, “you’ve done your job as a manager. It’s his game to win or lose.”
It’s hard to argue with the results.
All-Star closer Fernando Rodney matched the franchise record for saves Friday by getting No. 45 when he worked around a two-on, no-out jam in the ninth inning of a 4-2 victory over the A’s.
“They told me after the game,” he said. “I didn’t know the record for closers. Every time I go in, I just try to save the game for my teammates.”
Kazuhiro Sasaki set the Mariners’ record with 45 in 2001.
“It’s good,” Rodney said. “It’s a lot of saves, 45, with 16 games left. I’ll continue to work and try to make good pitches.”
Rodney is three saves shy of his personal best of 48, set in 2012 at Tampa Bay, and on track to become the first Mariners’ reliever to lead the majors — or even the American League — in that stat.
Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and St. Louis’ Trevor Rosenthal entered Saturday as the National League co-leaders with 43 saves, while Kansas City’s Greg Holland was second among American League relievers at 42.
Rodney has only three blown saves, which computes to a 93.8 percent success rate that ranks third in the majors among pitchers on pace for at least 20 saves opportunities.
But it’s often a high-wire act. Friday wasn’t atypical; the A’s opened the inning with two singles before Rodney retired the next three hitters on a foul pop and two strikeouts.
“I don’t care how he gets it done as long as he gets it done,” McClendon said. “He’s been phenomenal. I’m not sure where we’d be without him. He’s been that good.”
In 42 of Rodney’s 64 outings, at least one batter has reached safely.
Not that it seems to faze him.
“Just focus,” he said. “Keep pitching. And throw your fastball. Believe and trust the stuff you have. That’s what I do. I trust my fastball.”
ACKLEY RESTS AGAIN
On reflection, left fielder Dustin Ackley’s troublesome left ankle, while better, still isn’t quite game-ready. He returned to the bench Saturday after going hitless Friday in three at-bats.
“I need to be able to drive off my back foot,” he said, “and I wasn’t really able to do that. I think will take maybe a day or two more to get where I need to be.
“It’s not like it got any worse. If anything, it’s gotten better.”
Ackley missed four games after leaving a Sept. 6 game at Texas because soreness in his ankle was starting to limit his mobility.
“He was a little sore (Friday) night,” McClendon said. “I think if this was the seventh game of the World Series, he could play. We’ll see if we can get him cleaned up a little bit more.
“Once those spikes dig into the clay at home plate, you’ve got to pivot (on the ankle). I’m hoping he’ll be OK (for Sunday).”
“Just watching my swings on video,” he said, “I could tell it wasn’t how it normally is.”
SAUNDERS ALSO SITS
Outfielder Michael Saunders also opened the game on the bench after making four straight starts following his activation from the disabled list.
“He looked a little sluggish (Friday) with his legs,” McClendon said. “It’s a chance to get James (Jones) in there. If he gets on, he’s a threat.”
Jones started in right field, while Endy Chavez started in left field in place of Ackley.
Saunders missed nearly two months because of a strained left oblique and a viral infection before returning last Monday against Houston. He was 2-for-11 with three walks in the four games.
Felix Hernandez made his 300th career start Saturday and is the only active pitcher to make 300 starts with his current club. Mark Buehrle, now with Toronto, made 365 starts for the Chicago White Sox earlier in his career. The Mariners’ record for starts by a pitcher is 323 by Jamie Moyer…First baseman Logan Morrison, prior to Saturday, was batting .295 (36-for-122) in his last 37 games…The Mariners declared Saturday’s game to be a sellout more than two hours before the first pitch. They said about 12,000 tickets remain for Sunday’s series finale.
The probable starters are set for the Mariners’ upcoming four-game series against the Angels in Anaheim.
*Monday: Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker.
*Tuesday: Lefty Roenis Elias vs. Angels righty Cory Rasmus.
*Wednesday: Lefty James Paxton vs. Angels lefty C.J. Wilson.
*Thursday: Right-hander Felix Hernandez vs. Angels righty Jered Weaver in a rematch of the March 31 season opener at Angel Stadium.
The Mariners have their rotation lined up for the remainder of the year.
*Sept. 19-21 at Houston: Chris Young, Iwakuma and Elias.
*Sept. 22-25 at Toronto: Paxton, Hernandez, Young and Iwakuma.
*Sept. 26-28 vs. the Angels at Safeco Field: Elias, Paxton and Hernandez.
It was 24 years ago Sunday — Sept. 14, 1990 — that Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. hit back-to-back homers in the first inning against Angels right-hander Kirk McCaskill at Anaheim.
It marked the first time in history that a father and son had hit successive homers in a major-league game. Griffey Sr.’s homer came on an 0-2 count, while Junior turned around a 3-0 pitch.
It wasn’t enough. The Angels rallied for a 7-5 victory.
The Mariners and A’s conclude their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Chris Young (12-7 with a 3.35 ERA) will seek his first victory since Aug. 17 when he opposes Oakland lefty Jon Lester (13-10, 2.54). Root Sports will televise the game.
After the game, the Mariners depart on their final road trip: 11 games; four against the Angels in Anaheim, three at Houston and four at Toronto.
The Mariners then conclude the regular season Sept. 26-28 with three home games against the Angels.