Ryan Rowland-Smith was the latest to catch the bug, throwing six strong innings on Sunday as Seattle completed a three-game sweep of the Reds with a 1-0 win in front of 32,712 at Safeco Field on Father's Day.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Brandon League and David Aardsma -- who earned the save -- combined for three hitless innings of relief, and Franklin Gutierrez supplied the offense with a sacrifice fly, marking the first time the Mariners have won two 1-0 games in a series in franchise history.
It was Rowland-Smith's first win and first shutout outing of more than an inning this season, and combined with Jason Vargas, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners' starters have allowed two runs and 19 hits in 31 2/3 innings in the past four games.
"I don't know if I've been a part of a pitching staff that pitched as well as they did in three days," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "One run in three games, 27 innings, against an awfully good club that was in first place coming in."
Reds manager Dusty Baker put it differently: "It's a nightmare weekend as far as scoring runs. We couldn't buy a run, and it [didn't appear] like they were for sale."
Rowland-Smith wasn't perfect. He walked five (the previous three starters walked a total of one) and was pulled after giving out two free passes to start the seventh. But he kept his pitches low in the strike zone and worked out of several jams.
He put runners on the corners with two singles in the second but escaped, and he pitched out of a two-on, one-out situation in the sixth by striking out Jay Bruce to end the threat.
"[Saturday] night, a lot of people said, 'We won the series,' and I thought, 'You know what? Today's my day,' " said Rowland-Smith, who dropped his ERA from 6.63 to 5.98. "I have family in town. It's my sister's first Big League game today, and she came in from Hong Kong. My mom, this was the first start she got to see, and my girlfriend was here, and I just wanted to come out, enjoy this process, get deep into the game, have some fun and get a win."
League made sure the fun kept going.
He entered with two on and no outs in the seventh, and the runners moved over on a sacrifice bunt with the top of the order due up. That didn't trouble League, who touched 98 mph in striking out Orlando Cabrera and Brandon Phillips, leaning on his splitter and sinker.
League told Wakamatsu before the game he needed to pitch after having three days off, and he didn't disappoint. Wakamatsu said it was the best he had seen him throw this year, and Rowland-Smith was equally impressed.
"The way he was throwing the ball, he was absolutely filthy," Rowland-Smith said. "He's got great stuff, and he just let it fly. He has that splitter and that sinker, and it got to a point there after they bunted and he got Cabrera, it was like, 'OK, we're in pretty good shape here.' He was pretty tough to hit tonight."
Reds starter Aaron Harang was tough to hit, too. He gave up only three hits, but they all came in the fourth inning. Chone Figgins singled on a sharp grounder to second base, Jose Lopez moved him to third with a single to right, and Gutierrez brought him home with a flyout to center.
Seattle went down in order in six of eight innings. That's the kind of offensive production that landed the Mariners at the bottom of the American League West, where they still sit 13 games back despite a four-game winning streak.
That streak ties a season high, and it's their first three-game sweep since blanking the Orioles in April. They're also two games shy of the team record for consecutive games allowing one run or less, set at six in 2001.
Baker's Reds bore the brunt of that hot streak. His club, which leads the National League in runs, hits, home runs (tied) and batting average, was helpless at the plate. There were long fly balls that may have carried out in Cincinnati, but Safeco Field and the Mariners' outfield reduced them to long outs.
"We had a couple chances," Baker said. "Boy, they shut us down. They had some good pitching this weekend, outstanding pitching. I guess that old saying that good pitching beats good hitting [is true[. It shows how we depend on the long ball, too. We didn't hit a home run here, and that's a major part of our offense.
Mike McCall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.