Ian Snell has won five of his last six decisions and almost killed the Seattle Mariners bullpen doing it.
Snell hasn't pitched six innings in any of those wins, meaning in most cases three and sometimes four relievers have been required to protect the lead he departed with. That's asking a lot.
Still, the issue isn't his stuff and that's the bright spot. The issue is command and whether Snell can show this team he can go deep into games. In 10 starts as a Mariner, the answer has been no.
With a lefty on the mound for Toronto, the Mariners put Mike Sweeney back in the cleanup spot, bruised big toe and all.
It's Snell vs. David Purcey.
That's a mistake
Franklin Gutierrez singled with one out and Jose Lopez grounded a ball down the third base line - what appeared to be his 40th double of the season.
Uh, almost. Travis Snider pounced on the ball and made a strong throw to second to catch Lopez. Gutierrez got to third, but with two outs, not one.
Sweeney popped out. Oops.
Blue Jays leather
Snell is pitching well, although none-too-ecomonically, and Purcey has relied upon his defense through three innings
Left fielder Snider, who threw Lopez out in the first inning, just robbed Ichiro of a hit with a diving catch. And in the second inning, right fielder Jose Bautista made a play that will who up on Sportscenter tonight - an over the shoulder catch as he crashed into the wall.
That took at least two bases away from Jack Hannahan.
Snell is using his changeup well and retired nine of the first 11 Blue Jays he faced. It took him 47 pitches to do so.
A Mariners rally!
Gutierrez doubled for his second hit of the day and one out later, veteran Sweeney continued his late-season charge with an RBI single.
In the fourth: Mariners 1, Blue Jays 0The babies deliver & Ichiro tossed
Two guys getting the chance to show off in September got the Mariners offense going.
Matt Tuiasosopo, playing second base, singled. Catcher Adam Moore might have been asked to bunt but wasn't - and doubled the other way, driving a ball to right center field that scored Tuiasosopo.
Josh Wells bunted Moore over, but Ichiro was called out on strikes - and when he used his bat to draw a line where he thought that pitch had missed the plate, he was ejected.
That's the first ejection for a Mariner - player or staff - all season, and umpire Brian Runge did the honors without hesitation. It was also the first ejection of Ichiro's career.
With Gutierrez at the plate, Purcey wild-pitched Moore home.
In the fifth: Mariners 3, Blue Jays 0
A gift run
Lyle Overbay doubled and was content to sit at second until the Mariners made a did-you-see-that flub.
Josh Wells cut off Michael Saunders throw and tossed the ball to Tuiasosopo, who in turn tossed it to his pitcher. Snell lost the ball in the lights - ducked - and watched it roll all the way to catcher Moore.
Overbay went to third base, and scored an unearned run on a ground ball. Bizarre.
Through five innings, Snell has 69 pitches and is going strong.
After five: Mariners 3, Blue Jays 1
Oops and oops again
Mariners had the bases loaded and one out but came away empty when Wilson grounded into a double play.
The first batter Snell faced in the sixth, Bautista, hit his 71st pitch for a solo home run, his eighth of the season.
Aaron Hill struck out, Adam Lind got an infield single. Saunders, who entered the game when Ichiro was flung, caught a Vernon Wells drive as he banged into the stands down the left field line. Encarnacion flied out.
Six innings for Snell and 88 pitches. Now in his 11th start, that's the deepest he's gone for Seattle.
After six: Mariners 3, Blue Jays 2
Gutierrez and Lopez singled with one out - the third hit of the game for each. Sweeney singled, his third hit, to load the bases.
Bill Hall flied out, Gutierrez scoring.
In the seventh: Mariners 4, Blue Jays 2
That's better than six
Snell got one out in the seventh, then walked Snider. Snell struck out John McDonald, but when Kyle Phillips hit a pop fly that glanced off Hannahan's glove in shallow left field, that was it.
After 6 2/3 innings, five hits, one earned run, two walks, seven strikeouts. Progress.
Lowe struck Bautista out on four pitches.
After seven: Mariners 4, Blue Jays 2There goes THAT lead
For the third inning in a row, Seattle loaded the bases, and when Gutierrez grounded into a double play in the eighth, the Mariners came away with only one run in those three threats.
With the Blue Jays surprised not to be buried, they used a double by Hill and a wicked, slicing opposite field home run just inside the left field foul pole by Lind to tie it up.
After eight innings: Mariners 4, Blue Jays 4
And in the ninth
Shawn Kelley set Toronto down 1-2-3 and the game went into extra innings.
And in the 10th
Lind hit his second opposite-field home run of the day - his 32nd of the year - off Shawn Kelley.
Final: Blue Jays 5, Mariners 4