There’s no alternative at this point, manager Lloyd McClendon believes, to buying a ticket to the Fernando Rodney Experience whenever the Seattle Mariners are looking to close out a victory.
“The fact is he’s our closer,” McClendon said Wednesday in the wake of seeing Rodney blow a save in Tuesday’s loss to the New York Yankees. “We need him. We’re going to need him to be successful.”
What they don’t need is this:
Rodney has an 8.25 ERA in 12 appearances since May 4 after allowing 11 runs and 17 hits over 12 innings in that span. His struggles came after he ended April with a string of seven straight scoreless outings.
While Rodney has seven saves in nine post-April opportunities, he already has blown as many saves this season (three) in 17 chances as he did last year in 51 chances.
McClendon doesn’t see any.
“I think people talk very lightly about changing closers,” he said. “That’s fine, but you’ve got to have someone to do it. You don’t just throw anybody into the ninth inning and say, ‘Well, let him do it.’
“The old adage that anybody can do it … that’s just not the case.”
Specifically, McClendon says rookie Carson Smith, who has a 1.17 ERA in 24 games, isn’t ready for the responsibility or the workload that accompanies it.
“We have to be careful with him,” McClendon said, “particularly with his innings. Particularly with back-to-back-to-back (situations). I’m not sure if he can do that. I think his velocity goes down quite a bit.
“He doesn’t yet have his man muscles. He needs to mature and continue to develop. He’s doing a nice job, but I think part of him doing a nice job is the fact we’ve put him in positions where he can be successful.
“When you’re a closer, you don’t have that (luxury). It is what it is, and you’ve got to go in and get it done.”
The Mariners have closely monitored Smith’s workload. While he pitched in back-to-back games seven times, only once did he reach 30 combined pitches in successive games.
“I think the biggest thing with a kid like Carson,” McClendon said, “is having the ability to go out there three or four days in a row — and have the same stuff.
“And then have the ability to blow a game and come back the next day and get a save. We need to let him develop. Eventually, he’s going to be a real good eighth-inning (guy), or maybe even a closer.
“But today? No, he’s not that guy.”
Mike Montgomery’s strong debut Tuesday night ensures he’ll remain in the rotation for at least another turn — and probably longer — and also eases the need for the Mariners to line up another starter.
Montgomery limited the Yankees to one run and four hits in six innings and was positioned for a victory until Rodney permitted the tying run to score with two outs in the ninth inning.
“I had some nerves going in,” Montgomery said, “but by the third or fourth inning, I really started to settle in a little bit. I felt really comfortable out there.”
The Mariners had hedged their bet on Montgomery by having reliever Danny Farquhar, an eight-year veteran, make his first professional start Tuesday for Triple-A Tacoma against New Orleans.
Farquhar gave up two runs and three hits while throwing 51 pitches in 32/3 innings — his longest outing since 2008 —in an 11-2 victory at Cheney Stadium.
Montgomery’s next start will be Sunday against his former club, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners acquired him in a March 31 trade for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who starts Thursday for the Rays.
SIX IN ONE
Austin Jackson reached base six times Tuesday for the first time in his career and became the first Mariner to do it in more than 10 years. He had four hits, a walk and was hit by a pitch.
The last Mariner to reach base six times in a game was Raul Ibañez, who went 6 for 6 on Sept. 22, 2004 in a 16-6 victory at Anaheim.
The franchise record is seven, but both instances occurred in extra-inning games:
First baseman Logan Morrison has an 11-game hitting streak after going 1 for 4 in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Yankees. That matches the third-longest run of his career.
Morrison batted .333 in his surge, with 14 hits in 42 at-bats, and raised his average from .219 to .245.
But he hasn’t generated much in terms of production. Morrison scored just two runs over his streak and has not driven in a single run. He struck out Wednesday in the eighth inning with the bases loaded.
“Our pitching has been doing a great job,” he said, “and we’ve been letting them down. When we have opportunities like that, even against great pitching, we have to be able to cash in.”
It was 19 years ago Thursday — June 4, 1996 — that the Mariners scored four runs in the ninth inning against one of their future closers, Jose Mesa, in a 10-7 victory at Cleveland.
Mesa forced in two runs with bases-loaded walks to Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner before exiting. Joey Cora then grounded a two-run single to right against Paul Assenmacher.
The victory snapped Cleveland’s 118-game winning streak when leading after eight innings. Mesa later pitched for the Mariners in 1999-2000.
The Mariners’ five-game skid is a season worst. … The Yankees have won a franchise-best eight straight games at Safeco Field. They have won 14 of their last 17 in Seattle. … Garrett Jones had just one homer through 25 games before hitting successive game-winners Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mariners. … Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez scored his 1,949th career run on Jones’ homer. That ties Rodriguez for eighth on baseball’s all-time list with Stan Musial. Rodriguez scored the first 627 runs of his career while playing for the Mariners. … Manager Lloyd McClendon is up to 31 career ejections after getting tossed by first-base umpire Will Little in the third inning of Tuesday’s loss. It was McClendon’s second ejection of this season. … catcher Mike Zunino was ejected for the first time in his career. … left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush has stranded all 12 of his inherited runners this season in his 23 appearances.
The Mariners and Rays open a four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field. Lefty Roenis Elias (2-2, 3.07 ERA) will face Tampa Bay right-hander and former Mariner Erasmo Ramirez (3-2, 5.53). The game can be seen on Roots Sports and heard on 710-AM.