09/05/09 2:04 AM ET
Early burst propels Mariners past A's
Rowland-Smith makes lead stick with eight solid innings
By Jane Lee / Special to MLB.com
After all, it was in the confines of the A's ballpark on April 5 he was forced out by elbow pain after less than four innings of work.
Five days later, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. And 15 days later, he was still sitting in the training room.
On June 23 -- 74 days later -- Smith was back on the mound, but not in The Show. He made five starts in Triple-A Tacoma, posting a 4-0 record, before finally being reintroduced to a Major League mound on July 24.
So when Rowland-Smith took the mound in Oakland on Friday for the first time since experiencing pain that would shake up his season, it's safe to say he was looking for anything but a little déjà vu.
The Mariners lefty tossed eight strong innings -- scattering three runs on just four hits and one walk while striking out four -- and got just enough offensive support to lead Seattle to a 6-3 victory.
Although A's manager Bob Geren wasn't quick to commend the kid, saying his stuff "wasn't overly impressive," Rowland-Smith gladly let it be known he was proud of his own performance. Even more, he was beyond relieved to notch a victory in a place that's somewhat been haunting him since his first -- and brief -- start of the season.
"I was really stoked about tonight," he said. "The memories I have from here back from the beginning of the season are bad, so it was definitely good to go out and throw eight solid innings."
Rowland-Smith wasn't the only one pleased with his performance -- and for good reason. Manager Don Wakamatsu praised his pitcher not only for the numbers he posted against the A's on Friday but for the improvement he's noticed since coming full circle in Oakland.
"He was outstanding," the skipper said. "I'm awfully proud of players that go down to the Minors and develop in the way he has, and what he's done is amazing."
His numbers don't tell the whole story, though. In his first full season as a starter, Rowland-Smith is 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 10 starts. Yet in his previous two outings, the 26-year-old was 0-1 thanks to only one run of support in each of those games.
Luckily for the southpaw, the Mariners' offense utilized momentum from Thursday's 7-4 victory over the A's that included three two-run dingers. Only one homer came from Seattle on Friday -- a ninth-inning solo shot by Jose Lopez -- but plenty of hits made up for the decreased long-ball count.
Jack Wilson got things going in the second inning with two outs against A's starter Clayton Mortensen with a two-run single, which was followed by back-to-back RBI hits by Ichiro Suzuki -- now four hits shy of 2,000 hits for his Major League career -- and Franklin Gutierrez to make it a 4-0 game.
"The offense did a great job in the second inning," Wakamatsu said. "Four runs with two outs -- talk about manufacturing runs."
Needless to say, the Mariners quickly gave quite a welcome-back nod to Mortensen, who was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on Friday to make his second start of the season. The right-handed pitcher, who replaced scheduled starter Vin Mazzaro, gave up four runs and six hits and struck out three in seven innings.
"I just started leaving balls up," Mortensen said of the four-run second inning. "And with these guys, you leave balls up, they hit 'em hard."
Seattle was not done for the night, though. The team got a sacrifice fly in the eighth from Kenji Johjima before Lopez knocked out his 21st homer of the year. By that time, Oakland had only mustered three runs off Rowland-Smith -- an RBI double by Adam Kennedy in the third and a two-run homer from Nomar Garciaparra in the seventh with a little help from center fielder Gutierrez, who went to grab the well-hit ball only to watch it bounce off his glove over the wall.
"It definitely went off his glove," Wakamatsu said. "But for us to get those extra runs there, it always gives you momentum."
Momentum is what the team seems to be riding these days. With the win, Seattle has won four straight games and nine of its past 12. The Mariners also improved their season record to 11-3 against Oakland, a team against which they have compiled a six-game winning streak.
Jane Lee is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.