Michael Saunders homered to back Joe Saunders' standout pitching as Seattle won in front of an all-time Safeco Field low crowd of 9,818.
Joe Saunders on the mound at Safeco Field is always a comforting sight for his team. And the Mariners got a one-Saunders bonus on Monday when his namesake, Michael, returned to the lineup after a stint on the disabled list.
The Saunders combo, with lots of help from a Seattle lineup that’s finally showing signs of coming out of its slumber, paced the Mariners to a 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. It was their fourth win in five games on this homestand.
The game attracted 9,818 — the first game in Safeco Field history with fewer than 10,000 fans, and the third time this year the ballclub has set an attendance low.
Joe Saunders continued his mastery at Safeco, which endures no matter who he’s pitching for. He fired a four-hitter for the Mariners’ first complete game of the season, walking one and striking out two. It was the seventh complete game of Saunders’ career, and his first since April 27, 2012, for the Diamondbacks.
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Saunders really got in a groove to hasten the two-hour, 12-minute game in which he got 19 ground-ball outs. The Orioles didn’t have a hit after the fourth inning.
“That’s the greatest thing,” said outfielder Jason Bay. “It was like a National League game. You don’t see too many of those in the American League. As a position player, even if guys are getting hits, if you’re working quick, get the ball and go, the guys behind you really appreciate that, and it rewards you. Great effort from Joe.”
Saunders is now 8-0 with a 1.75 earned-run average in 12 career starts at Safeco, and 2-0, 0.81 in three starts there since joining the Mariners. He said the statistic merely motivates him to improve his 0-3 record with a 12.51 ERA on the road this season.
“Notoriously, I’m better on the road, so I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I have to figure that out a little bit. I need to be better on the road. I pride myself on being a good road pitcher, and I haven’t done that well this year. I need to be a lot more consistent. We’ll work on that in Toronto.”
The pitcher got a quick boost from Michael Saunders, who in his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list — his first swing, for that matter — homered to right-center off Orioles starter Zach Britton leading off the bottom of the first.
“That was a big lift,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Obviously, everyone was excited. For him to get us going like that was great to see.”
That lead disappeared in the fourth, when Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, on a 2-2 pitch with two outs, launched a homer to left with a runner aboard to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
But as they did their previous two games against the Angels, both wins, the Mariners battled from behind to take the lead. Michael Morse led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, followed by a Jesus Montero walk. Justin Smoak popped out, but the red-hot Bay slashed a drive down the left-field line for a tying double.
Robert Andino, who like Joe Saunders played for the Orioles last year, delivered an opposite-field single to score Montero with the go-ahead run.
“Old team or no team, you have man on third with less than two outs, against your old team or not, you’ve got to drive him in,” Andino said. “I just focused like that, got a good pitch to hit, and put the good part of the bat on it.”
The Mariners gave Saunders a cushion with three more runs in the sixth, an inning that featured one of the weirder moments of the season. Smoak and Bay led off with singles, moving up on an Andino sacrifice. Brendan Ryan, who brought a .143 average to the plate, lined a single to right to score Smoak.
“That’s big,” Wedge said. “Brendan beats himself up; it’s Groundhog’s Day with that. Hopefully, at some point in his lifetime, he’ll get beyond that, but it was a big hit. Less is more for him up there. When he’s under control and quiet with his bat, he has a pretty good swing.”
Bay came home on Michael Saunders’ fielder’s choice, and Saunders raced home on a triple into the right-field corner by Kyle Seager.
After Smoak’s single, plate umpire Alan Porter had tossed a new ball to Britton, who was already holding a ball and wasn’t looking. The ball nailed him on his pitching shoulder, requiring a visit from the trainer and a few practice pitches. He stayed in the game.
“Yeah, the umpire smoked me,” Britton said. “I had no idea, I was looking down at the ball and all of a sudden another ball hit me. I had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t feel great. … Just (hit me) right on top of the shoulder, kind of hit a nerve so it kind of tingled for a second.”
Bay, who hit a game-tying homer on Sunday, had three hits in this game, as well as a smash that Orioles third baseman Manny Machado fielded nicely for an out.
“I feel pretty good and I’m getting results, and that’s nice,” said Bay. “I’m hesitant to say everything is hunky dory. The moment you do that in this game, it will knock you back down.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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