SEATTLE -- Mike Maroth says his improvement is all just a matter of maturity.
A 21-game loser for Detroit in 2003, Maroth improved to 3-0 in 2006 -- with just one earned run allowed in 18 1/3 innings -- and the Tigers upped their road record to 8-2 with a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
"As you gain experience, you get better," the 28-year-old left-hander said after outpitching Jarrod Washburn. "I'm not trying to make huge strides. But nothing can replace experience on the mound."
The Tigers managed only five hits in support of their outstanding pitching, but it was enough. Placido Polanco had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the sixth inning and Ivan Rodriguez pounded a 410-foot homer to center off Washburn with two out in the ninth that proved to be the winning run.
While the Tigers won their third straight game under new manager Jim Leyland, the Mariners lost for the fifth time in six games. Detroit is 3-2 in one-run games this year, while Seattle is 0-6.
Maroth (3-0), who came into the game with an 0-2 record and a 15.95 ERA in three previous starts at Safeco Field, pitched six innings and limited the Mariners to four hits, all singles, with three walks, three strikeouts and a hit batter.
Maroth improved his scoreless innings streak to 17 1/3 and lowered his ERA to 0.49.
"It feels great," he said. "Things are going well for me. Mostly, I had good movement on my sinker tonight. There's really no secret to it for me. I'm just making my pitches."
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the sixth. Brandon Inge opened the inning with a double into the right-field corner against Washburn (1-3).
In a 10-pitch at-bat, Vance Wilson moved Inge to third with a groundout to second and Polanco then drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left. Left fielder Raul Ibanez made a strong throw to the plate, but Inge scored standing up.
Leyland said Wilson's at bat in the sixth was a key to his team's win.
"That's the type of player he is," Leyland said of Wilson's groundout. "He's a battler."
Detroit made it 2-0 off Washburn with two out in the top of the ninth on Ivan Rodriguez's second homer of the season. Before Friday, Rodriguez was 1-for-14 in the first three games of the Tigers' trip.
Rodriguez hit a first-pitch fastball.
"He never swings first pitch off me," Washburn said. "I wanted to get a nice fastball away for strike one. That's right where I threw it. He must have went up there and decided to swing at the first pitch."
The Mariners loaded the bases in the second. Kenji Johjima was hit by a pitch by Maroth, but was tagged out by shortstop Carlos Guillen when he made the turn for third after Adrian Beltre's bloop single and was unable to get back to the bag.
Hargrove didn't criticize Johjima for botching the Mariners' chance to score in the second.
"That's a tough read," Hargrove said. "Once he made the decision to go, he just got caught out in no-man's land and couldn't get back."
After Maroth left the game, the Tigers used Joel Zumaya, who pitched two scoreless innings with four strikeouts, and newly activated 37-year-old closer Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his first save this season. Jones allowed Reed's sacrifice fly before getting the last out for his 227th career save and 143rd with the Tigers.
Mariners cleanup hitter Richie Sexson was called out on strikes against Zumaya to end the eighth.
"They ended the game with two closers there," Sexson said of Zumaya and Jones. "That guy (Zumaya) could easily be a closer on any other team."
Washburn pitched 8 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.
- Maroth had a 14-14 record last season and is 43-58 overall. Maroth's career record for March and April is 8-8.
- Washburn, who signed a $37.5 million, four-year contract as a free agent in December, lost his third straight start.
- Before the game, the Tigers activated Jones from the 15-day disabled list. He was put on disabled list on April 2 because of a pulled left hamstring. The Tigers transferred RHP Craig Dingman from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.