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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Column: Ninth inning could be M’s bane in 2015

Call it an overreaction, but this has been bothering me since last season.

Fernando Rodney managed to promptly and efficiently blow a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, April 12, when the Seattle Mariners took on the Oakland Athletics.

Rodney entered the game with a comfortable 7-3 lead until  things started going wrong in a hurry. Rodney quickly gave up a double, walked a batter, then another double which cleared the bases for two RBIs. Now nursing a two-run lead, the bleeding continued. A weak single to third base and another walk loaded up the bases. Rodney failed to retire a single batter in this time.

A double play tallied the inning’s first two outs until a runner scored on the play and the tying run ended up at third. A line-drive single into left brought him in and tied the game at seven all.

That, Mariners fans, is the Fernando Rodney Experience.

Luckily for Rodney, Nelson Cruz picked up the pieces from the spectacularly awful blown save. A solo home run to deep left gave the Mariners an 8-7 lead in extras. Yoervis Medina picked up the final three outs in the bottom of the frame to give the Mariners a victory.

But, this is a problem. The Mariners are trying to compete for a World Series here; blowing a four run lead is unacceptable for someone who is supposed to be a top-flight closer.

For full context, Rodney led all of baseball in 2014 with 48 saves and was an American League All-Star. However, every save had fans on the edge of their seats. Rodney’s control can sometimes be haphazard and he has a tendency to walk batters.

To his credit, he almost always manages to work his way out of jams. He only blew three saves last season. But you want your closer to get three quick outs and go home. The longer the game continues, the chance for bad things to happen grows by the second.

I like Fernando Rodney. After every save, he shoots a pretend arrow into the sky and first baseman Logan Morrison runs to the mound to watch it with Rodney. He appears to be a character and well-liked by the fans.

However, I fear this might interfere with the Mariners success in 2015, especially should they make the postseason.

Don’t get me wrong, no closer is perfect in baseball. Everyone is going to blow a save here and there. However, Rodney never makes his saves easy, and thus has yet to earn my trust.

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