Mariners reel in Jays, then blow ’em up

mariners 9, blue jays 5: Saunders hits two homers, including grand slam in 10th for a resilient win, Seattle’s fourth in row

larry.larue@thenewstribune.comApril 28, 2012 

TORONTO – They hadn’t won four games in a row in 11 months and when the Seattle Mariners got to the ninth inning Friday, they were down two runs to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Earlier they’d been down one run after two innings and fought back to tie, only to trail again after eight.

“We kept scrapping all night, we fought back and put ourselves in position to win late,” manager Eric Wedge said.

Win? How about just catching up?

The Mariners did just that in the ninth inning, using a Michael Saunders solo home run, two Blue Jays errors and John Jaso’s two-out pinch-hit single – then blew it open in the 10th when three singles loaded ’em up and Saunders’ grand slam unloaded ’em.

Final score: Seattle 9, Toronto 5.

By the time Brandon League finished it up, the Mariners had no one left on their bench and only one pitcher – Hisashi Iwakuma – remaining in the bullpen.

Talk about using the roster late? Wedge used two pinch hitters, a pinch runner and, in the 10th, had Hector Noesi warming up to run, not pitch.

“I got my spikes on and was ready,” said Noesi, who almost-but-not-quite ran for Justin Smoak at third base with one out. “My plan was to steal home. I’m a pitcher, what can I lose? They’d never expect me to run.”

Thinking like that, perhaps, was why Wedge didn’t use Noesi. That, and the fact the Mariners had no position players remaining had Noesi pinch run.

Saunders, the likeable Canadian who spent most of the night being teased relentlessly by a crowd of 24,303 – chanting “Saunders! Saunders!” – then broke the Blue Jays hearts with his second home run of the night.

His first came an inning earlier, with the Mariners down 5-3, and made it 5-4.

“This was about a lot more than those two hits,” Saunders said. “What a great game to win.”

The Mariners’ pitching?

Blake Beavan started, got two outs in the sixth inning and, having allowed three runs, left the game with two men on base. Reliever Erasmo Ramirez ended the threat.

After that, the Mariners used Steve Delabar, Lucas Luetge, Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furush and League. Behind them, the Seattle defense was often spectacular.

Third baseman Alex Liddi saved a run with a diving stop in the second inning with a Blue Jay on third base. Saunders made a running catch at his knees to end the sixth with two men on.

And in the seventh, with two on and two out, Adam Lind singled to right field. Ichiro Suzuki fielded the ball on a hop and threw home to catcher Miguel Olivo, who flung himself across the baseline to tag J.P. Arencibia for the third out of the inning.

GUTI’S NEW AILMENT

Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez’s partially torn pectoral muscle suffered in spring training has healed well and Gutierrez is throwing without pain.

The problem? He’s developed plantar fasciitis in a heel and has been hobbled by the condition. There is no timetable for his return.

ON TAP

Seattle plays in Toronto, a 1:07 p.m (PDT) game that will be televised on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Kevin Millwood (0-1, 7.04) vs. Brandon Morrow (1-1, 3.71).

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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