SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners were rolling along entering Wednesday’s game against Cleveland, riding an eight-game winning streak, the longest active winning streak in the majors.
That streak came screeching to a halt when the Indians rocked the Mariners, 10-1, at Safeco Field.
Then the news got worse.
Manager Eric Wedge’s “dizzy spell” before Monday’s series opener that kept him in the hospital two nights was caused by a minor stroke, the Mariners said. The diagnosis was more serious than first thought, but Wedge was released from the hospital and back home by Wednesday afternoon.
“Not the kind of motivation you are looking for, but I think, collectively, he’ll be in our hearts and minds,” Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “… You’d rather it be a pulled calf or something, but it is what it is. He’ll deal with it the right way.”
Wedge will stay home for the upcoming four-game home series with the Minnesota Twins and the ensuing trip to Boston and Baltimore.
“We expect a full recovery,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “You talk to him and he sounds fine and ready to roll, but we are going to err on the side of caution.”
The players learned of Wedge’s status following the drubbing from the Indians in which they were held to two hits and allowed 13.
The Indians’ Scottt Kazmir, a two-time All-Star who pitched in an independent league in 2012, had a lot to do with the loss with his near-gem pitching. Helping the Indians’ cause was Seattle starter Joe Saunders, who saw the end of a personal four-game winning streak.
Saunders was pulled from the game after 4† innings and five earned runs allowed – tying the number he had allowed his previous four July starts combined. It was Saunders’ fifth consecutive start against the Indians that his team lost, dating to Aug. 18, 2008, when he was with the Angels.
He entered with a 4-0 record and 1.73 ERA in July, more than good enough to give the 25,688 fans in attendance confidence the Mariners could push their win streak to nine games.
“We just got flat-out outplayed, outpitched, out-hit,” Saunders said.
Saunders allowed three runs in the first inning when former Mariners prospect Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana hit consecutive RBI doubles.
Saunders loaded the bases with one out in the third, but escaped with no damage.
“His location and his command (were) off, especially his fastball,” said Mariners bench coach and interim manager Robby Thompson, who will continue to run the club in Wedge’s absence. “... Got the ball up, got behind in the count and they took advantage of it.”
Though Saunders’ command wasn’t sharp, he limited the damage, with Cleveland holding a 4-1 lead led after four innings, while Kazmir was holding the Mariners hitless.
Then came the fifth.
Saunders got two outs out, but was pulled two batters later after giving up a walk and a single. He was replaced by Hector Noesi.
Noesi walked Drew Stubbs to load the bases then, on a full count to Michael Bourn, allowed the center fielder to hit the first grand slam of his career and his third homer of the season.
It put the Mariners in a crater of a hole, down 8-1.
“I tried to keep the team in there as long as I could,” Saunders said. “I was a little (mad) that I came out. It was just one of those days where it wasn’t our day.”
Justin Smoak finally delivered Seattle’s first hit off Kazmir to lead off the bottom half of the inning, 2½ hours into the game. (Cleveland’s first hit came on the first pitch, a bunt single by Bourn).
The Indians (53-48) added a run the next half-inning on Cabrera’s solo homer – an unnecessary insurance run with the way Kazmir was pitching.
Long removed from his days as a dominant pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays, Kazmir joined the Indians by signing a minor-league contract in December after spending last season with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in Houston and Gigantes de Carolina in Puerto Rico.
The only run he allowed was unearned in the second inning when shortstop Cabrera fielded Michael Saunders’ grounder and threw well wide of Jason Kipnis trying to get Jason Bay for a force out at second base. The ball sailed into foul territory in right field and Bay easily scored.
Kazmir threw eight innings, allowed one hit and struck out seven.
“He had a little bit of everything,” Smoak said. “His fastball was really deceptive and he was throwing a cutter that you just go (Smoak shrugged his shoulders). Never seen that before.”
The Mariners’ win streak was fun. But now it’s done. Nine consecutive wins would have been the most for Seattle since 2003.
The Mariners (48-53) can still hang their hats on three consecutive series wins.
“They did a great job with the eight-game streak,” Thompson said. “They played very well, very hard, very good baseball. We’ll throw this one out the window and hopefully start (the streak) again tomorrow.”
“We just have to put this one behind us,” Smoak said.
The Mariners’ home game against Minnesota at 1:10 p.m. Saturday will not be televised because of a conflict with Fox’s national broadcast. The start time was set in cooperation with the City of Seattle because of the Seafair Torchlight Parade. … Left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise was designated for assignment and the Mariners announced the signing of outfielder Aaron Barbosa. The former Northeastern University star, who went undrafted, was playing for Harwich of the collegiate Cape Cod League.
Seattle will start Hisashi Iwakuma (9-4, 2.99 ERA) against Kevin Correia (7-6, 4.17) when the Minnesota Twins come to Safeco for a four-game series starting at 7:10 p.m. Thursday. The game will be televised by Root Sports.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677