SEATTLE — Mariners closer Fernando Rodney usually gets the job done. He never makes it look easy, though.
Rodney allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base in the ninth inning as Seattle clung to a one-run lead over the Detroit Tigers.
Rodney walked Alex Avila to lead off the inning and Don Kelly reached on a broken bat flyball to left field. But Rodney struck out Andrew Romine and Rajai Davis before getting Ian Kinsler to ground out to the shortstop to for a 3-2 win over the Tigers Saturday night, wrapping up his 14th save in 16 chances.
"I wasn't nervous. I wasn't watching," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon joked.
Willie Bloomquist delivered a pair of two-out RBI singles off Detroit starter Drew Smyly to help lift the Mariners.
Chris Young allowed two runs and three hits over six innings to improve to 5-2, but Seattle had to hold their breath with Rodney in the ninth.
After Avila and Kelly reached in the ninth, manager Lloyd McClendon knew Romine would likely be bunting. He marched to the mound to meet with Rodney and stressed the importance of getting any out they could against Romine.
"A lot of times we take that for granted, but that's real important," McClendon said. "You know they're bunting. Let's not try to do anything spectacular. Let's just make sure we get an out. That was my message."
Romine failed to get the bunt down and ultimately struck out on a changeup. Rodney and Davis then had a 10-pitch battle before Rodney finally got a swinging strikeout over a 95 mph fastball on the inside corner.
"(Davis) was looking for something soft he can drive to right field," Rodney said. "I see that and I continue to mix it up. The last pitch I said 'I'm going to die with my best pitch in my fastball.'"
A groundball to short by Kinsler allowed Rodney to get out of the jam as the Mariners held on for the win.
Stefen Romero and John Buck each singled to put runners on the corners with one out against Smyly (2-4) in the second inning. Cole Gillespie hit a dribbler off the end of the bat just past the mound to score Romero and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Bloomquist added another run with a two-out RBI single that scored Buck from second.
Smyly allowed seven hits and threw 105 pitches in just four innings of work before being ousted by the Mariners.
"He had a little trouble with his command again," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "He had trouble getting ahead and when he did get ahead, it seemed like they would work their way back into 3-2 counts."
Young, meanwhile, was in cruise control for the Mariners. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced through the first three innings.
Miguel Cabrera hit a solo homer to left field with one out in the fourth inning to get the Tigers on the board. It was Cabrera's second home run in two games this series against Seattle and his 10th home run of the season.
Seattle answered in the bottom half. Gillespie singled and stole second base to move into scoring position. Bloomquist came through again with two outs, hitting a single to left to score Gillespie and give Seattle a 3-1 cushion.
Austin Jackson doubled to lead off the seventh inning and chase Young. Jackson scored on a wild pitch by Dominic Leone to pull back with a run. A walk to Kelly and single from Davis put a pair of runners on but Gillespie ran down a line drive from Kinsler at the wall to preserve Seattle's lead.