Ibanez's RBI single lifts Hernandez, Mariners past Blue Jays

TORONTO (AP) -- Ninth innings don't come much more eventful or nerve-racking than the one the Seattle Mariners overcame Wednesday.

Raul Ibanez singled home the go-ahead run with two out in the ninth and the Mariners lost their closer to injury and almost watched his replacement give up a winning home run before holding on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1.

The win kept an eight-inning, eight-strikeout gem from Felix Hernandez from being wasted, too.

After closer J.J. Putz was forced out in the bottom of the ninth with a sore elbow, the Mariners watched anxiously as Brandon Morrow nailed down his first career save, but not until Ibanez ended it by catching Lyle Overbay's drive at the wall in left, stranding a runner at first.

Morrow's first thought was that he had surrendered a game-winning, two-run homer.

"I almost had a heart attack out there after that," Morrow said. "I definitely thought it was gone. Raul kind of slowed up at the fence, and I thought he was just going to watch it fly over. It fell right into his glove. That was huge."

Ibanez said defensive positioning was key to making the play.

"We were playing deep, playing no doubles, and it was a good thing we were," Ibanez said. "If we're playing shallow or normal, that's a tough ball to catch. He hit it pretty well."

Seattle, which is 10-23 away from home, won a three-game road series for the first time since taking two of three April 8-10 at Tampa Bay. Seattle also swept two April 16-17 in Oakland.

"It's a real good win for us," manager John McLaren said. "I feel good for the guys. They played hard. Big Felix stepped up big time. That's as good an outing as he's had all year. He threw the ball extremely well."

Putz, who missed 18 games with sore ribs earlier this season, had to be replaced after walking Joe Inglett to begin the ninth.

McLaren said he noticed Putz grabbing his elbow and shaking his arm before sending trainer Rick Griffin to the mound.

"It sent a red flag up," McLaren said. "We're not going to take any chances. He was honest with us and said [the elbow] was barking."

Putz did not speak to reporters after the game but sent word through a team official that he had not felt the pain before. He will update his condition before Seattle's next game, Friday at home against Washington.

Morrow said he preferred being called into a save situation with almost no time to prepare.

"It was better for me," he said. "I hadn't had a save before. If I knew I was going in to a save situation, kind of thinking about it, maybe that would have amped me up a little more and I would have been erratic. Who knows what would have happened?"

The Mariners came back against Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan (1-3). Ichiro Suzuki drew a one-out walk and stole second and third while Willie Bloomquist struck out. Miguel Cairo walked and took second on defensive indifference before Ibanez lined an RBI single to right, advancing to second as the throw went to the plate.

An irate Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out after the play and both he and Ryan were ejected for arguing with plate umpire Andy Fletcher.

Catcher Rod Barajas said Fletcher's strike zone was inconsistent in the final inning.

"What you don't like to see is the strike zone change," Barajas said. "For me, from my at-bat to going behind the plate and working, it seemed like it changed a little in the ninth."

Both Ryan and the Blue Jays have struggled lately. Toronto has lost eight of 11, while Ryan is 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in five June appearances.

Hernandez (5-5) gave up one run and four hits in eight innings to win his third straight start. He walked one and struck out eight and lowered his ERA to 2.91.

"All my pitches were working unbelievably today," Hernandez said. "My changeup was unbelievable."

This one figured to be a low-scoring affair. Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum came in tied with Cleveland's Cliff Lee for the American League ERA lead (2.52), while Hernandez entered tied for fourth with Toronto's Roy Halladay (3.07).

Marcum was especially sharp early, striking out seven of the first 11 batters he faced. He finished with nine strikeouts and allowed one run and seven hits in seven innings, lowering his ERA to 2.43.

"He had a good change-up," McLaren said. "He really had us off stride. I don't remember him throwing changeups like that."

Hernandez looked comfortable through the first three innings, but was touched for a run in the fourth. Inglett led off with a double down the first base line and went to third when right fielder Jeremy Reed mishandled the ball. Inglett scored one out later on Stairs' RBI grounder.

Seattle survived a botched sacrifice to tie it in the seventh. Reed and Richie Sexson began the inning with singles, but Kenji Johjima popped his bunt attempt to catcher Curtis Thigpen, who doubled Reed off second base. Yuniesky Betancourt took Reed off the hook with an RBI triple.

Reed was yanked from Monday's game after being picked off second, but McLaren was more forgiving this time.

"That ball was in no-man's land," McLaren said. "You couldn't tell if it was going to bounce or not."

Game notes
Toronto outfielder Alex Rios, who played Tuesday despite soreness in his back and groin, got the day off, as did third baseman Scott Rolen. ... Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre was held out of the starting lineup but came on as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. ... Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill (concussion) has been symptom-free for the past three days. Hill, who was injured in a collision May 29 at Oakland, must be symptom-free for seven straight days before he can return.