Millwood's gritty effort helps Mariners top Jays

Millwood's gritty effort helps Mariners top Jays

Millwood's gritty effort helps Mariners top Jays
TORONTO -- Kevin Millwood has had his share of tough-luck losses this year, so the veteran right-hander deserved some necessary help from his bullpen Wednesday as the Mariners held on for a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Millwood was taken out after the fifth inning when a game-long struggle with stiffness in his throwing shoulder finally led to manager Eric Wedge saying enough was enough. And Millwood had just enough of a lead to hang on for the win on a night he and four relievers combined to hold Toronto to just two hits.

Both those hits came against Millwood in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run blast from Edwin Encarnacion that cut the margin to 3-2. But that was the only damage the Blue Jays could do on a night the big right-hander acknowledged was a tough go from the start.

"It's not the way you want to be when you're out there," Millwood said. "I felt like for the most part I could still throw the ball where I wanted, there was just nothing really on it."

So how did he roll through three perfect innings on just 26 pitches and then recover after the home run to retire the final four batters in a row before his night ended at just 66 pitches?

"I think it was more them getting themselves out," said Millwood. "I guess they weren't expecting 85-86 mph."

The win was Seattle's fifth straight over Toronto and clinched the series victory -- with Felix Hernandez set to pitch Thursday's finale -- as the Mariners improved to 69-74 overall and 6-2 against the Blue Jays.

Millwood has received the lowest run support of any Seattle starter while posting a 6-12 record with a 4.25 ERA. But he had won his last start and Wedge wanted badly to get him another victory after his determined effort.

"He gritted through that last inning, but I just didn't feel right pushing him back out there," said Wedge. "He's a warrior, always has been. I was just so thrilled we were able to get him that win. The bullpen did a great job, obviously."

Relievers Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, Josh Kinney and Tom Wilhelmsen combined for four innings of no-hit ball with two walks and six strikeouts, with Wilhelmsen finishing things off with his 26th save.

"Our bullpen is pretty loaded with guys who want to be in there and get it done," Wilhelmsen said.

The Mariners 'pen has a 1.23 ERA in September as Wedge continues to mix-and-match with his assortment of lefties and righties. This time, however, they got the call a little sooner than expected.

"We're always ready," said Kelley, who replaced Millwood in the sixth. "Obviously, we keep an eye on what's going on. Kevin was at 66 pitches and the phone rings and we're kind of scrambling. But that's what we're there for. That's what we do. Everybody got the guys they were supposed to get. So yeah, it's a good feeling for us as a group to help out and be a big part of the night."

Before Encarnacion hit his 39th home run of the season, Millwood had a 3-0 lead thanks to catcher Miguel Olivo's solo shot in the second and a two-run single from Franklin Gutierrez in the fourth.

Olivo jumped on a 1-0 fastball from Ricky Romero for his 10th long ball of the season. He became the sixth Mariners player with double-digit home runs -- the most for Seattle since 2007 -- joining Kyle Seager (18), Jesus Montero (15), Michael Saunders (14), Justin Smoak (14) and Dustin Ackley (10).

Gutierrez then drove in Brendan Ryan and Ackley with what turned out to be the deciding hit in the fourth. Ackley, who had laced a ground-rule double to put runners on second and third, slid around the attempted sweep tag at the plate by Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia.

"I haven't had many plays like that this year," Ackley said. "I just tried to stay outside as long as I could and it seemed like he caught it a little out front and up the line a little bit and I was able to get around him.

"It was kind of a run-around, put-your-hand-on-home-plate and just get in there," he said. "I didn't expect that to be the game-winning run, but it was a big one, I guess."

Seager went 3-for-5 with a double and made an excellent defensive stop deep behind the bag at third to start a double play on Encarnacion in the sixth that Wedge called "as good a double play as you're going to see a big leaguer turn."

"That was unbelievable," said Kelley, who had walked leadoff man Brett Lawrie to start the inning. "I couldn't ask for a better play from Seager and better turn from Ackley. I threw a pitch that caught a little too much plate and he hit it into the ground. Initially, I'm thinking double down the line, and the next thing you know, it's two.

"I just said, 'Wow, thank you guys.' We all try to pick each other up, and that's why we're winning."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.