Robinson Cano held up his hand to stop a pack of reporters from entering the clubhouse after the game.
“Just a minute,” Cano said, smiling.
Cano and his teammates had a brief order of business to attend to first. Manager Lloyd McClendon won his 400th career game Tuesday when the Mariners beat Toronto 6-3 and tied the Detroit Tigers for the American League’s final wild-card spot.
McClendon walked into the middle of the clubhouse after the victory and was immediately drenched by a beer shower. As McClendon turned to head back to his office, Felix Hernandez delivered the celebration’s kicker: He poured a bucket of water on Seattle’s first-year manager.
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“My guys have been outstanding,” McClendon said. “It’s been a hell of a ride to this point. They’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Mariners have won seven of their past eight games. They extended their club record of 11 consecutive games of allowing three runs or less. And their offense provided a jolt for the second consecutive night.
“We’re better than we were three weeks ago,” McClendon said. “I keep harping on that, but we are. We’re a better club.”
The night began with the now-expected consistency of starting pitcher Chris Young. He pitched six innings and gave up just two hits.
Young showed up to spring training as a 6-foot-10 mystery. His track record showed two different pasts. On the one hand, he was once an all-star. On the other, he hadn’t pitched more than 115 innings in a season in seven years and missed all of the 2013 because of injuries.
But Young has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season. He lowered his ERA to 3.20 after giving up just one run on two hits against the Blue Jays, and he picked up his 11th victory of the season.
“I had no idea that he would be this good,” McClendon said. “I would be lying if I said I knew it.”
Young’s night started off rocky. He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, then gave up a double to Melky Cabrera that gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
But Young quickly settled into a rhythm. He retired 14 consecutive batters at one point, and he never faced serious danger the rest of the night.
McClendon said the Mariners have closely monitored Young’s workload. He is 35 years old with a history of injuries, and he has never thrown 180 innings in a season in his career.
McClendon said the Mariners have focused more on limiting Young’s pitch count than his innings. He has thrown 1402/3 innings this season. He hasn’t thrown that many since 2007.
“I feel completely normal,” Young said. “It’s really a non-issue for me. I’ve been here in the past in my career. I’m not concerned nor worried.”
Two encouraging developments offensively helped the Mariners build their lead. First, Dustin Ackley delivered the night’s biggest hit with a two-out out single in the fifth inning that scored two runs and gave the Mariners a 4-1 lead. Second, Kendrys Morales hit his second homer of the season — and his first this year as a Mariner. He went 63 at-bats in a Seattle uniform before homering, and he entered the game hitting just .164 since joining the Mariners.
Things got interesting in the eighth inning. Reliever Brandon Maurer allowed one run after giving up two singles and a double.
McClendon pulled Maurer in favor of left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who inherited runners on second and third with one out. Beimel gave up one run on a sacrifice fly to the warning track, but he escaped the inning without further damage.
Fernando Rodney closed out the victory after Ackley made a twisting and turning catch for the game’s final out.
“We’re putting up runs, and the pitching is doing what they usually do,” Ackley said. “You see what happens when we’re able to score for them. We’re going to win games.
“If we can do that for the next month or so, we’re going to be where we need to be.”