SEATTLE -- Ryan Rowland-Smith is turning into a can't-miss starter for the Mariners. Staff ace Felix Hernandez is already one of those guys, the kind of pitcher whose starts you make every effort to witness in person because of how dominant he can be at times. And in front of 16,596 at Safeco Field on Wednesday, Rowland-Smith continued to show why there's no reason why he can't head into the spring as the team's No. 2 starter, tossing eight solid innings against the White Sox to deliver the Mariners a 4-1 win in the second game of a three-game series.
A Gordon Beckham home run in the top of the eighth was all the scoring Chicago could muster, despite managing nine hits against the Mariners lefty. "All about Rowland-Smith," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu surmised. "Just a phenomenal job. We talked about earlier with Felix giving us a belief system and stopping some of the losing streaks ... to be able to come out there and give us an outing like he did after last night, just outstanding." It's getting to the point where it's almost always all about Rowland-Smith any time he makes a start. He's now gone eight innings in three of his past four starts, and has racked up five consecutive quality starts. It should be noted, also, that he spent a good chunk of this season refining his game in Triple-A Tacoma. The way he's pitched since, that may be easy to forget. "He just looked so polished tonight," Wakamatsu said. "I'm awfully proud of him. ... He's learning a knack to get deeper and deeper into ballgames. I'm awfully excited about him now and in the future." And unlike his last outing, there was support from his offense. After losing a 3-0 decision to the Angels six days ago, Rowland-Smith watched as Jose Lopez drove in a run with a double in the first inning, then Adrian Beltre scored another with an RBI single to right field. That was all the Aussie needed. "We swung the bats really well tonight, especially early in the game," Rowland-Smith said. "That's what made me settle in and to have that run support, it's good." The feel-good vibe in the clubhouse afterward was only heightened by Mike Carp's first big league home run, a solo shot to right-center field in the fourth inning that gave the Mariners a 4-0 lead and guaranteed Carp a pie in the face, as well as a beer shower. "Everything you dreamed of," Carp said of the home run, though not the beer shower. "You grow up as a kid and you want to hit a home run in a Major League ballpark. I'm glad I got it out of the way." Seattle was silenced the rest of the way by the White Sox bullpen, which picked up the slack admirably after starter Gavin Floyd left before the fourth inning due to a sore left hip. But enough damage had already been done before the first three Mariners outs were recorded, and Rowland-Smith left the White Sox frustrated all night. "He kept us off balance," Beckham said. "He had a good changeup going and a pretty good curveball. He pitched a heck of a game, and you have to tip your hat to him. What are you going to do? He was on his game." Chicago rapped out eight hits besides Beckham's homer, but all of them were singles and only one of those baserunners moved past second base. That happened in the seventh inning, when Rowland-Smith struck out Jayson Nix swinging with runners on second and third to retire the side. "In that situation, I felt like I just made the pitch," Rowland-Smith said. "That's why I was fired up. I stayed within myself, executed the pitch and it felt good." And even though he'd already thrown over 100 pitches, Rowland-Smith was sent back out to the mound in the eighth, perhaps an indication of just how much trust the lefty has earned from Wakamatsu. "He walked over and said, 'How are you feeling?'" Rowland-Smith said. "I said, 'Good,' and he walked away. That was the best thing, just having that trust." The way he's pitched recently, there's no reason not to.
Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.