TORONTO — The thrill ride almost never disappoints, does it?
Fernando Rodney did what he almost always does Saturday when summoned to close out a victory for the Seattle Mariners: He fired his imaginary victory arrow into the air. (VIDEO LINK)
Rodney secured a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre by working a scoreless ninth inning. And, really, there wasn’t much drama on this occasion. Three up, and three down.
“I love that situation,” Rodney said. “When I have a one-run game, I feel like I’m invincible. I tell myself that. Invincible. I know I can (protect) a one-run lead. I know I can do my job.
“Just throw strikes, and I can throw a little bit harder, too.”
It was that way, too, on Friday — once Rodney turned a three-run lead into a one-run lead. He punched out the last two hitters in a 4-3 victory.
“With a one-run lead,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I think he’s a little more focused. A three-run lead, he’s probably a little more relaxed. It’s just the animal that most closers are.
“It’s not just him. I see it with other guys, too.”
Rodney attributed part of his problems Friday to not having pitched since the previous Saturday.
“If I don’t pitch (Friday) night,” he said, “maybe that happens today. But today, because I pitched (Friday) night, I felt more loose. I felt like I want to feel.”
Argue if you want, but it’s hard to dispute the results: Rodney now has 12 saves in 13 chances despite a 6.23 ERA. This save protected James Paxton’s first professional victory in his native country.
Paxton (3-2) gave up gave up two runs and four hits in six innings. (VIDEO LINK) He shook off some early jitters and handed that 3-2 lead to Tom Wilhelmsen, who worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh.
Carson Smith sailed through a one-two-three eighth against the three All-Stars atop the Toronto lineup — Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
That got the game to Rodney.
Paxton entered the game with a 20-inning scoreless streak, but Donaldson opened the first inning with a double. A ball-four wild pitch to Bautista put runners on first and third with no outs.
“It’s different coming back to Canada,” Paxton admitted. “It’s the only Canadian team, and before my start last year, I hadn’t pitched in Canada for a long time. It’s just a different feeling.”
McClendon make a quick visit before Encarnacion batted in the first and delivered a terse message: Forget the guy on third.
“You’re always trying to calm yourself,” Paxton said. “It might have sped up on me a little bit in the first inning. Lloyd came out and helped me slow down and get my focus under control.”
Encarnacion hit a sacrifice fly to deep center, but Paxton steadied thereafter, and the Mariners pulled even in the second inning on Kyle Seager’s one-out homer (VIDEO LINK) against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle.
The Mariners then benefited from an enormous blunder by Toronto right fielder Chris Colabello in the third inning.
Colabello, normally a first baseman, drifted back on Chris Taylor’s deep-but-routine fly with out out but apparently misjudged the ball…because it hit behind Colabello and hopped over the wall for a double.
“We’ve got two infielders playing the outfield (because of injuries),” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “They’ve done a (darn) good job overall. That’s basically what it is. They’re gutting it out every day.”
Buehrle (5-4) then walked Rickie Weeks on four pitches before Willie Bloomquist sent a drive to deep left (VIDEO LINK) that soared over the head of Danny Valencia, normally a third baseman, for a two-run double.
“I thought I got enough of it when I first hit it,” said Bloomquist, who drew the start because he was 20-for-45 in his career against Buehrle.
“I don’t hit too many, but when I hit them I usually have an idea that it’s going to go. I honestly thought that one should be (over the wall). Then `thunk’ (off the wall), and I was like, `Aw, come on, man. Really?’”
Even so, the Mariners led 3-1.
Bloomquist added a heads-up defensive play to his resume in the fourth after Valencia’s liner got past a diving Justin Ruggiano in center.
Backing up the play from right field, Bloomquist threw out Valencia at second. The play turned even bigger when Colabello followed with a no-doubt homer to left.
Instead of a tie game, the Mariners still led 3-2.
That’s how it ended. Along with another arrow.