M’s keep rolling
Rowland-Smith carries Seattle past Cincinnati
SEATTLE – As if keeping up with the Seattle Mariners’ recent string of spectacular starts wasn’t enough pressure on Ryan Rowland-Smith, consider his guest list for Sunday’s game.
His sister and her husband flew in from Hong Kong. “This was their first big-league game,” Rowland-Smith said.
His mother was here from Australia. “It was the first time she had seen me start a game,” he added.
And his girlfriend also was among the group. “She’d seen me suck before,” Rowland-Smith said, “so that was no big deal.”
Well, not on Sunday.
The left-hander pitched his best game of the season, holding the Cincinnati Reds to three hits in six shutout innings in the Mariners’ 1-0 victory.
While the victory ended a personal slide for Rowland-Smith’s pitching life – he was 0-6 entering the game – it continued one of the best streaks of pitching in Mariners history. It was the fourth straight game they’d allowed one run or less, a feat accomplished in 2001 when the Mariners did it in six straight games.
This one started with Jason Vargas’ eight innings of one-run pitching Wednesday in St. Louis and continued in a sweep of the Reds when Cliff Lee pitched a complete-game shutout Friday and Felix Hernandez a one-run complete game Saturday.
“I don’t know if I’ve been a part of a pitching staff that’s pitched as well as they did in three days,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.
It gave the Mariners their second four-game winning streak of the season, although it has made no difference in the A.L. West standings. They remain 13 games behind first-place Texas, which has won eight straight.
If there were a day the Mariners’ pitching streak could have crumbled, Sunday might have been most likely. Rowland-Smith hadn’t pitched out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts, including a four-inning stint Tuesday at St. Louis.
There were some dicey moments, most of them created by Rowland-Smith’s five walks and one hit batter.
He got out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the second inning and pitched around baserunners in the third, fourth and fifth as well.
In the fourth, the Mariners gave him a lead when Chone Figgins led off with an infield hit, advanced to third on Jose Lopez’s one-out hit-and-run single, then scored on Franklin Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly.
Rowland-Smith escaped another two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by getting Jonny Gomes to fly out before he struck out Jay Bruce. That was a huge out because Rowland-Smith had fallen behind in the count.
“I’m 3-1 on him and I made the pitches and executed them,” Rowland-Smith said. “That’s the best feeling, when you have a plan and execute it.”
Problem was, he followed that with back-to-back walks to start the seventh. Wakamatsu then put the game into the hands of relievers Brandon League and closer David Aardsma, and they were spectacular.
League replaced Rowland-Smith, and Reds catcher Corky Miller dropped a sacrifice bunt that put runners on second and third with one out and the top of the order coming up.
League changed the complexion of the Reds’ aggressive approach with his next pitch. He flung one high and inside on Orlando Cabrera, who dropped his bat and backpedaled out of the batter’s box, then needed several seconds to compose himself.
League stuck out both Cabrera and Brandon Phillips, neither looking comfortable in the box, and he carved through the meat of the Reds’ order in the eighth inning, retiring Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Gomes.
Aardsma pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save and the Mariners’ 10th victory in 24 one-run games this season.
Mariners 1, Reds 0
LOB—Cincinnati 8, Seattle 3. RBIs—F.Gutierrez (29). CS—B.Phillips (7). S—C.Miller. SF—F.Gutierrez. RLISP—Cincinnati 4 (Heisey, Bruce, B.Phillips 2); Seattle 1 (Carp).
|Harang L, 5-7||6||3||1||1||1||4||110||5.17|
|Rowland- Smith W, 1-6||6||3||0||0||5||2||106||5.98|
|League H, 5||2||0||0||0||0||3||26||3.41|
|Aardsma S, 15-19||1||0||0||0||0||2||11||5.32|
IR-S—League 2-0. HBP—by Rowland-Smith (Rolen). T—2:36. A—32,712 (47,878).