Nearly 14,000 spectators at Safeco Field Tuesday had their first in-person glimpse of Tampa Bay’s Cy Young Award-winning pitcher David Price in the duel many expected. Unfortunately for them, it was not the outcome they wanted. The Rays scored two ninth-inning runs off closer Fernando Rodney to beat Hisashi Iwakuma and the Mariners 2-1.
Iwakuma and Price, two of the top pitchers in the American League, battled for eight innings to a near stalemate. Seattle (20-19) held a 1-0 lead from the first inning, thanks to an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano that scored rookie James Jones, who led off with a double for the second consecutive night.
For eight innings, Iwakuma toyed with Tampa Bay (17-23), losers of five of their past six. His combination of fastball, splitter, curve and change-up induced 11 groundball outs to go with five strikeouts. After yielding a one-out double to David DeJesus, Iwakuma retired the next 13 batters in a row and 20 of 22.
“I thought (Iwakuma) was outstanding,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “If you really think about what he’s done, I mean really put it into proper context, he had no spring training, maybe four bullpens, one (simulation) game and one rehab start . . . He’s just been phenomenal.”
After working his way through a minor jam in the eighth in which the Rays had the tying run on first with none out, Iwakuma was pulled after 97 pitches.
It’s a move that McClendon has made routinely through 39 games. With Iwakuma making just his third start since returning from the disabled list, McClendon didn’t hesitate. Iwakuma (2-0, 1.59 ERA) threw 24 pitches in the eighth.
“I’ve got one of the best closers in the game, and this guy is going to save a bunch of games for us. It just didn’t go his way tonight. That’s baseball, it happens,” added McClendon. “We’ll pick up the pieces and move on.”
Rodney gave up a lead-off homer to DeJesus on a 3-2 pitch to tie the score. He retired the next two hitters. But after back-to-back singles, Matt Joyce put the Rays ahead to stay with a line drive single to center. McClendon pulled Rodney and Danny Farquhar got the final out. Damage was done.
It was another tough night for the Mariners offense. Price came in with a 3-3 record and 4.53 ERA, sub-par numbers for the former the ace of the staff. He entered with the most hits allowed by any AL pitcher and tied for third in homers allowed (nine).
Yet the 28-year-old kept the Mariners quiet for most of the night. After Jones scored, Price allowed just five more hits, walked none and struck out 12 for his second complete game victory of the season.
The Mariners were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
“He wasn’t coming out,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He had 12 strikeouts, was so sharp, and kept hitting the glove. Jose Molina did a great job with him. From the side, just watching his face, he was totally locked in tonight . . . He picked us up big time and a great, great effort on his part.”
Seattle has a chance to win the fifth of its past six series in the rubber game Wednesday afternoon before a short, five-game road trip.
OF Michael Saunders (left knee) missed his third straight start. He remains day-to-day, although McClendon said it is unlikely Saunders will play Wednesday . . . With another hit Tuesday, Cano has reached base safely in 22 consecutive games. His first-inning RBI tied Kyle Seager with 22 for second-most on the club . . . Mike Zunino extended his hitting streak to six games with a double in the fifth inning . . . Iwakuma has a scoreless inning streak of 16 innings, the longest streak for a Mariner this season.