The Seattle Mariners’ winning streak ended at three games with a thud Sunday.
Starting pitcher Joe Saunders continued to struggle away from Safeco Field, as he has all season. The Mariners failed to come up with hits against former teammate Brandon Morrow. And 22,937 Toronto fans at the Rogers Centre didn’t feel the need to boo their struggling team for the first time in a while.
It all added up to a 10-2 Mariners’ loss.
Still, there was no anger afterwards. Seattle managed to take 2 of 3 games from the Blue Jays to win its third series in a row.
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“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.”
With the outing, Saunders is now 0-4 in four road starts. He’s allowed 36 hits and 26 runs in 18 2/3 innings with a 12.54 earned-run average away from Safeco Field.
“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 was a great example of that.”
Career-wise Saunders has pitched better on the road. But some of his home ballparks were also quite hitter friendly, particularly in Arizona and Baltimore.
Saunders had a similar, but a more succinct synopsis of the home vs. away numbers this season.
“It’s a fluke man,” Saunders said.
Saunders never worked a 1-2-3 inning in the outing. He gave up a stinging lead-off single to Rajai Davis to start the game. It was a sign of things to come. Davis would later score on a sacrifice fly from Jose Bautista.
Toronto tacked on two more in the second inning off of Saunders. A single and a double to start the inning led to two more runs on an RBI single from Maicier Izturis and a groundout from Munenori Kawasaki.
Saunders was able to get out of the third inning unscathed thanks to Michael Saunders, who robbed J.P. Arencibia of a would-be 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 wouldn’t be able to help him out in the fifth.
The Mariners had cut the lead to 3-2, taking advantage of a four Morrow walks.
Joe Saunders, however, couldn’t keep the game within reach.
He gave up a lead-off homer to Melky Cabrera. He walked Bautista and gave up a one-out single to Arencibia. Wedge got Hector Noesi up in the bullpen to get loose, but he stayed with Saunders hoping the veteran could stop the bleeding.
“He threw the ball well last time and I wanted to give him every opportunity to work through it,” Wedge said.
Mark DeRosa jumped all over a 1-1 fastball down the middle and crushed it over the centerfield 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 Mariners pitching had been on point, there likely wouldn’t have been enough offense for a win.
Former Mariners’ first-round draft pick Morrow showed electric stuff with a blazing fastball that made him a top prospect. He also showed the meandering command that has made him an average big league pitcher.
He gave up one hit and walked one batter over the first four innings, while striking out three. In the fifth inning, he 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 to Michael Saunders loaded the bases again. This time Kyle Seager brought in a run with a sacrifice fly. Morrow walked Kendrys Morales to load the bases again, but Michael Morse flew 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 to go with three hits, five walks and two earned runs.