Jackson’s solo home run in the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie and the Mariners squeaked by the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Saturday night.
After an uncharacteristic outing last time out, Felix Hernandez (9-2) allowed just one run on two hits in seven innings. Rookie Carson Smith notched his first career save for Seattle.
“A win’s a win. We’ll all sleep a little better tonight,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Hernandez allowed seven runs and lasted just 4 2/3 innings as he struggled with command in last Monday’s loss to the New York Yankees. Hernandez still fought with some command issues but managed to keep the Rays in check.
“It’s big one for us,” Hernandez said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit. I believe in this team and we’ve just got to believe in ourselves.”
Seth Smith doubled to lead off the fourth inning off Rays starter Alex Colome and advanced to third on a single from Logan Morrison. Port Orchard native Willie Bloomquist singled to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Mike Zunino followed with a walk to load the bases with no outs. However, the Mariners would fail to add to the damage as Jackson fouled out to third base. Robinson Cano’s struggles continued as he grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Kevin Kiermaier tripled off Hernandez with one out in the sixth and scored on a wild pitch to even the game at 1-1. Jackson homered on the seventh pitch against Rays reliever Steven Geltz (1-2) take the lead for good. Jackson is hitting .390 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and four RBIs in his last 10 games.
The Mariners had been held to one run or less in three straight games and have not scored more than three runs in 11 straight games.
Seattle is getting baserunners — averaging over eight hits a game on the homestand — but have been abysmal with runners in scoring position. The Mariners are 12-for-78 (.154) with runners in scoring position over the last 10 games.
“We’ve gotten the runners out there, we just haven’t necessarily done the best job getting them in and it’s tough,” Jackson said. “They’re not throwing us any cookies. We’re having to work for it and we’re going to have to work for it some more.”
The Mariners turned to rookie Smith instead of veteran closer Fernando Rodney. Rodney (2-3, 6.94 ERA) has struggled all season and has just one clean appearance since the start of May. Two of his three blown saves have come in the last two weeks. “I think it’s an opportunity to clean Fernando up and get some things straightened out from a mechanical standpoint. We’ll see how it goes,” McClendon said. Smith, Mark Lowe and Charlie Furbush will be considered on a situational basis going forward in the closing role.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi is likely to miss some time after suffering a tight left oblique Friday night. … 3B Evan Longoria was not in the lineup Saturday and is day-to-day while nursing a sore left wrist.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to toss his second bullpen session on Sunday. Iwakuma threw 27 pitches in a bullpen session on Thursday as he continues to work back from a strained right lat muscle that landed him on the disabled list on April 24.
Rays: RHP Chris Archer (6-4, 2.01 ERA) is coming off two straight starts with at least 12 strikeouts and no walks. Archer allowed just two hits over eight innings with 12 strikeouts against Seattle on May 27.
Mariners: LHP Mike Montgomery (0-0, 1.50 ERA) is making his second career start. Montgomery took a no decision after allowing just one run on four hits over six innings to the New York Yankees in his major league debut last Tuesday.