A little bit of upside on a disappointing day

Joe Saunders allows seven runs in five innings, but Mariners leave Toronto with 3rd series win in row

Staff writerMay 6, 2013 

TORONTO — The Seattle Mariners’ three-game winning streak ended with a thud Sunday.

Starting pitcher Joe Saunders continued to struggle away from Safeco Field. The Mariners failed to come up with clutch hits — among their few hits — against former teammate Brandon Morrow. And 22,937 Toronto fans at Rogers Centre didn’t feel the need to boo their struggling team for the first time since last week as the Blue Jays won, 10-2.

The Mariners were in the game for only a handful of innings, but there was no anger afterward. They still took two of three games from the Blue Jays to win their third series in a row.

“We’re in the business of trying to win series,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We won another series here. We have to be ready to go to work on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.”

A sweep of the Blue Jays would have been difficult for an assortment of reasons.

The biggest might have been the continuation of Saunders’ road woes. The veteran left-hander lasted five innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits with two walks and no strikeouts.

“It was a battle today for sure,” he said. “I didn’t feel my best. They put some good swings on some good pitches.”

Including Sunday, Saunders is 0-4 in road starts. He has allowed 36 hits and 26 runs in 182/3 innings for an earned-run average of 12.54.

At home, Saunders is 2-0 in three starts with an ERA of 0.81.

“I just think this is somewhat of a fluke thing that’s gained a little bit of momentum,” Wedge said. “But we have to stop it.

“I think when it comes to Joe, he’s a guy that knows how to pitch. But he has to hit his spots and make the baseball do what he wants to do with it.

“Last time (giving up two runs on four hits in a complete-game win April 29) was a great example of that.”

Career-wise, Saunders usually has pitched better on the road.

But some of his home ballparks were quite hitter-friendly, particularly in Arizona and Baltimore.

Saunders had a similar but more succinct synopsis of the home vs. away numbers this season.

“It’s a fluke, man,” Saunders said.

Saunders didn’t work a 1-2-3 inning Sunday. He started the game by giving up a stinging double to Rajai Davis.

It was a sign of things to come. Davis later scored on a sacrifice fly from Jose Bautista.

In the second inning, a single and a double off Saunders led to two more runs on an RBI single from Maicer Izturis and a groundout from Munenori Kawasaki.

Saunders got out of the third inning unscathed thanks to teammate Michael Saunders, who robbed J.P. Arencibia of a two-run homer with a leaping, over-the-wall grab.

“That was awesome — he definitely saved me a couple of runs,” Joe Saunders said.

But Michael Saunders couldn’t help him again in the fifth.

The Mariners cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the inning, taking advantage of four walks to score a pair of runs.

However, Joe Saunders couldn’t keep the game within reach.

He gave up a leadoff homer to Melky Cabrera, walked Bautista and gave up a one-out single to Arencibia.

Wedge got Hector Noesi up in the bullpen to get loose, but Wedge stayed with Saunders, hoping the veteran left-hander could stop the rally.

“He threw the ball well last time, and I wanted to give him every opportunity to work through it,” Wedge said.

He couldn’t.

Mark DeRosa jumped all over a 1-1 fastball that was right down the middle and crushed it over the center-field wall for a three-run homer.

Saunders finished the inning and was done for the day.

Noesi wasn’t much better in relief, giving up three runs on six hits with a walk in two innings.

Even if the pitching had been better for the Mariners, there might not have been enough offense to win.

Morrow, a former Mariners first-round draft pick, showed electric stuff with the blazing fastball that made him a top prospect. He also showed the meandering command that has made him an average big-league pitcher despite the upside.

Morrow gave up one hit and walked one batter over the first four innings, while striking out three.

In the fifth inning, he inexplicably started walking people. He walked the first two hitters and gave up an infield single to load the bases.

The Mariners pushed a run across on a Robert Andino fielder’s choice. Another walk, this to Michael Saunders, reloaded the bases, and Kyle Seager pushed another run across with a sacrifice fly.

Morrow walked Kendrys Morales to load the bases again, but Michael Morse flied out to end the inning.

“That was about our only opportunity,” Seager said. “Other than that, we had three hits off of him.”

Morrow went eight innings, striking out eight batters and allowing five walks and two earned runs.

ryan.divish@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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