SEATTLE -- Hisashi Iwakuma outdueled Rays standout David Price for eight innings Tuesday, but Tampa Bay rallied in the ninth against closer Fernando Rodney to pull out a 2-1 win at Safeco Field.
It was a frustrating loss for the Mariners, spoiling a second straight scoreless gem by their All-Star right-hander, and manager Lloyd McClendon wasn't in a mood to rationalize why he took Iwakuma out after eight innings and 97 pitches in his third start since coming off the disabled list.
"I'm going to answer this in probably the best way I can because this is something I certainly don't think I should have to defend," McClendon said. "First of all, Kuma is on his third start of the year. He had no Spring Training. He had  pitches. And I'll answer it this time. Yes, Kuma was out of gas, but I'm not going to defend that all year.
"First of all, I've got one of the best closers in the game," he said. "This guy is going to save a bunch of games for us. It just didn't go his way tonight. That's baseball, it happens. I know everybody's upset. I'm upset. I would have booed me. Heck, I'm upset, too, but that's the way it goes. We'll pick up the pieces and get ready for tomorrow."
Iwakuma shut out the Rays for eight innings on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts and has now recorded 24 straight scoreless innings at Safeco Field dating back to last September.
But the 33-year-old from Japan wound up a with a tough no-decision when Rays designated hitter David DeJesus homered off Rodney leading off the ninth to tie the game at 1 and Matt Joyce delivered the go-ahead hit with a two-out RBI single later in the inning.
Rodney's second blown save in 13 opportunities came against his former Rays team while giving up four hits, a walk and two runs before Danny Farquhar took over to get the final out with the bases loaded.
"This game is difficult to play every night," said Rodney. "It's a one-run ballgame. You have to come in and make good pitches, the best you have. They just beat me tonight. "
After missing the first month of the season with a torn tendon in his right middle finger, Iwakuma has gone 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts. He threw eight scoreless innings with four hits in his last start, a 1-0 victory over the Royals, and duplicated that against the Rays five days later.
This time, though, Iwakuma was left without any reward.
"This is a tough game," he said through translator Antony Suzuki. "You're facing their ace and you know it's going to be tough from the get-go. I was just trying to keep the leadoff guy off every inning and get that one out first. That was a key for me and pitching my game. It's not easy losing a game, but that's part of baseball."
It was the fifth time in his career Iwakuma has thrown eight innings without allowing a run and the second time the Mariners have lost one of those contests. But that didn't take away from what he has shown in the first three outings since his return.
"That guy he was unhittable tonight," said Rays catcher Jose Molina.
"He's better than I thought," McClendon acknowledged. "I knew sitting in the other dugout that he was good. He's better than good."
And, yes, the veteran right-hander said he told McClendon he was done after a 20-pitch eighth pushed his pitch count past his previous outing.
"I pitched eight innings and this is only my third start," Iwakuma said. "I told the skipper that was enough. He was being cautious with my arm and my finger. I'm just taking one step at a time."
Price was just as good for the Rays, as the 28-year-old southpaw held Seattle to one run on six hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts in picking up the complete-game win. Price never gave up more than one hit in any inning as he improved to 4-3 with a 4.02 ERA.
The Mariners were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, able to cash in on only the first of the four doubles they hit off the 2012 American League Cy Young winner.
"I think Mr. Price had something to do with that," McClendon said. "He was pretty good tonight."
Rookie center fielder James Jones got the Mariners off on the right foot with a leadoff double for the second straight night and scored on Robinson Cano's infield grounder for a 1-0 lead in the first.
Jones went 1-for-4 and now has at least one hit in each of his six starts since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma. The 25-year-old is batting .370 overall and is 5-for-16 with five runs in four games since moving into the leadoff role.
Cano has 22 RBIs, tied for second on the team behind the 26 of Justin Smoak. He doubled in the fourth inning and went 2-for-4 to put his average at a team-leading .307.
The Mariners have still gone 13-6 since snapping an eight-game losing streak on April 23, putting their record at 20-19 as they sit one game shy of the quarter-pole in the Major League season.
The Rays won for just the second time in their past seven games and are 17-23, avoiding going eight games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.
Seattle has gone 4-0-1 over its last five series and can win another one with a victory in Wednesday afternoon's finale against the Rays. McClendon left no doubt that Rodney will be on the mound if a save situation arises.
"Listen, he's a top-stepper, we all know that," McClendon said of Rodney's penchant for getting into trouble. "But if you look at his numbers, they're pretty darn good. Like I said, it just wasn't his night tonight. If we have a save situation tomorrow, he'll be right back out there. I can tell you that."