OAKLAND, Calif. — Use your All-Star closer to protect a four-run lead in the ninth inning? In a non-save situation.
Every time, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon promised.
It didn’t work Sunday when Fernando Rodney blew that four-run cushion before the Mariners pulled out an 8-7 victory over Oakland in 10 innings on Nelson Cruz’s homer.
But McClendon staunchly defended the strategy.
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“I did it a lot last year,” he said, “and I’ll do it every time this year. I’ll tell you this, you’re a fool if you don’t put your closer in with a four-run lead.
“Because what happens is, you send somebody (else) out there, and somebody gets on base, then you’ve burned two guys because you you didn’t use your closer.”
Rodney never gave up more than two runs last season in any of his 69 appearances. What happened Sunday, McClendon contends, is an outlier and won’t affect his approach when the situation arises again.
McClendon also pointed to A’s closer Tyler Clippard, also an All-Star in 2014, who surrendered Cruz’s homer in the 10th inning.
“You know what’s going to happen?” McClendon asked. “Clippard will be back out there tomorrow, and so will Rodney. That’s just the way it is. They’re human beings. They give up games. Nobody’s perfect.
“Everybody flies off the handle when a guy blows a game, but I can’t do that. Somebody has to keep their head. I choose to keep mine. So (Rodney) will be back out there tomorrow. Trust me.”
Rodney might be available for duty Monday when the Mariners open a three-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, but don’t be surprised if the club makes a roster move to bolstered a thinned unit.
Tom Wilhelmsen was unavailable Sunday because of what is believed to be a hyper-extended elbow, and McClendon admitted he’d prefer to stay away from using Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina.
That positions Dominic Leone for a possible recall from Triple-A Tacoma. Leone hasn’t pitched since working a scoreless inning on Friday for the Rainiers at El Paso.
The Mariners won back-to-back games in extra innings for the first time since registering three successive walk-off victories over Texas from Sept. 16-18, 2002 at Safeco Field.
The last time they won back-to-back games in extra innings on the road was also against the Rangers…more than 30 years ago. It was Sept. 4-5, 1984 at old Arlington Stadium.
Seth Smith started a second straight game as the designated hitter, and manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged the move was an effort to prevent Smith from aggravating a sore groin muscle.
“We’ve got the DH spot,” McClendon said. “We can rotate it. We want to make sure he’s full-go. It just makes sense.”
Smith missed three games last week because of the ailment before going 2-for-3 in Saturday’s victory over the Athletics in 11 innings. Nelson Cruz started Sunday in right field for the fourth time in six games.
McClendon said Saturday that Cruz is likely to log more time this season in right field than his previous projection of 30-35 games.
And note: The Mariners won’t have the DH over the next three days when they play under National League rules for a three-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
“Somebody’s not going to play,” McClendon said, “but it’s pretty safe to say that Cruz will be in there.”
Left-hander J.A. Happ contends he didn’t tire in the seventh inning Saturday when he surrendered two runs after shutting out the Athletics to that point.
“My goal is to continue to make pitches,” he said. “I felt I was doing that. The ball just found holes. They just dropped in there.”
Happ’s final line showed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, which came after Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker struggled through the early innings in the two previous games.
“It was a much-needed start,” McClendon said, “I can tell you that. Our bullpen had been a little bit overworked to that point. For him to come out and give us those innings was special for us.
Happ’s effort also continued a strong run that began last season when he compiled a 3.56 ERA in his final 13 starts for Toronto.
How about this detail from Friday, when Triple-A Tacoma walloped El Paso (Padres) 17-5: Every player in the Rainiers’ starting lineup had at least one hit, one run and one RBI.
The last time that happened was 2005.
It was 14 years ago Monday — April 12, 2001 — that a Japanese-born batter faced a Japanese-born pitcher in a Major League game.
Ichiro Suzuki grounded a two-out single in the ninth inning against Angels reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa at Anaheim, Calif.
Hasegawa got the victory over another Japanese-born pitcher, Kazuhiro Sasaki, when Garrett Anderson hit a walk-off homer later in the inning that gave the Angels a 3-2 victory.
Robinson Cano was hitless in five at-bats and is currently on a 0-for-13 skid that has dropped his average to .120…Rickie Weeks’ pinch homer in the seventh inning was the first by a Mariner since Stefen Romero on June 3, 2014 at Atlanta…Yoervis Medina got his second career save in 132 career appearances. His other was June 18, 2013 against the Angels in Anaheim…The Athletics reinstated outfielder Josh Reddick from the disabled list prior to the game after clearing roster space by optioning infielder Tyler Ludendorf to Triple-A Nashville. Reddick opened the season on the Dl because of a strained right oblique…ESPN calculated Nelson Cruz’s homer on Saturday at 430 feet. It was his 10th homer of at least 425 feet since the start of last season. Only Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, with 12, has more.
The Mariners make their first trip to Dodger Stadium since 2009 in a three-game series that opens at 7:10 p.m. Monday,
Left-hander James Paxton (0-1, 3.00 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Brandon McCarthy (1-0, 7.20). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.
The Mariners hold a 13-12 edge in their all-time series against the Dodgers and have won three straight series at Dodger Stadium. Overall, the clubs are 7-7 in games played in Los Angeles.