SEATTLE – With the Mariners-Pirates trade dominating the talk in the clubhouse, Ryan Rowland-Smith retreated to the video room Wednesday morning to focus on the most important part of his day.
He needed to find a way to beat Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.
“I was joking this morning that with Halladay pitching, I’d have to throw a no-hitter to beat him,” Rowland-Smith said.
For six innings, that’s what he did on the way to a 3-2 Mariners victory at Safeco Field. Ken Griffey Jr. supplied the winning hit with his two-run double in the seventh.
Rowland-Smith held the Jays to one baserunner through six innings – a hit batter to start the third inning in what appeared to be retaliation after Halladay had plunked Kenji Johjima in the second.
Despite that impressive body of work, his most important pitches may have come in the seventh inning after he’d not only given up a hit, but a 1-0 lead supplied in the fifth on Jose Lopez’s solo home run.
Aaron Hill singled to lead off the seventh and Adam Lind followed with a home run on a breaking pitch that Rowland-Smith left hanging high in the strike zone. Toronto led 2-1
Rowland-Smith pulled himself back together after Lind’s big blast and got out of the seventh, and the Mariners’ offense did the same in the bottom of the inning against Halladay.
Rookie Michael Saunders dragged a bunt for a single, Ichiro Suzuki singled into right field and Lopez followed with a base hit up the middle to load the bases with one out.
Griffey, who’d doubled in his previous at-bat against Halladay, lined the ball down the right-field line to score Saunders and Ichiro.
From there, the Mariners turned to their finishers out of the bullpen, Mark Lowe with a 1-2-3 eighth inning and closer David Aardsma who got three outs in the ninth, after walking Hill to start the inning, for his 25th save.
The victory was the Mariners’ second straight after a four-game losing streak.
“It was nice to have a good series after a stretch we weren’t real proud of,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.
He could say the same of Rowland-Smith, who landed on the disabled list with triceps tendinitis after his first start of the season in April and fought three months to get back into the rotation.
“He pitched as good as I’ve ever seen him pitch,” Wakamatsu said. “He was aggressive and he kept the ball down in the zone. To have a no-hitter against this club for six innings is awfully impressive. It was a tremendous start on a hot day out there.”
The heat was a factor, or at least the Mariners tried to use it that way.
The first-pitch temperature at Safeco Field was 86 and it was 91 at the finish, although the temperature a few miles south at Sea-Tac Airport reached a record 102 about 3 p.m.
The Mariners wanted to turn that heat onto Halladay by not only making him throw pitches, but bunting a few that he’d have to field. Ichiro dragged a bunt to the right side in the third inning and Saunders used his speed to beat out a bunt in the decisive seventh.
“The key was to be able to put pressure on Halladay,” Wakamatsu said. “There were little things that get to pitchers, the bunts. We even saw Ichiro take one to the right side. He opened a whole new tool box with that.”
Rowland-Smith kept his focus on a day when the off-field activity was as busy as what happened on it.
“It wasn’t that much of a distraction because when I came in here this morning, everything was positive,” Rowland-Smith said. “Getting Jack Wilson is a good deal for us, so there was a lot of positivity. I just went into the video room and tried to stay to myself.”
Mariners 3, Blue Jays 2
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||0||2||2||0||0||.215|
E—Millar (2). LOB—Toronto 3, Seattle 9. 2B—Jo.Lopez (24), Griffey Jr. 2 (14). HR—Lind (21), off Rowland-Smith; Jo.Lopez (13), off Halladay. RBIs—Lind 2 (67), Jo.Lopez (53), Griffey Jr. 2 (29). RLSP—Seattle 7 (Griffey Jr. 2, M.Saunders 2, Shelton, Johjima 2). RMU—F.Gutierrez, Jo.Lopez.
HBP—by Halladay (Johjima), by Rowland-Smith (Millar). T—2:14. A—32,649 (47,878).