By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
TORONTO — The Seattle Mariners’ winning streak ended at three games with a thud on Sunday.
Starting pitcher Joe Saunders continued to struggle away from Safeco Field, as he has all season. Seattle failed to come up with clutch hits or many hits against former Mariner Brandon Morrow. And 22,937 Toronto fans at the Rogers Centre didn’t feel the need to boo their team struggling team for the first time in awhile.
The Mariners’ 10-2 loss wasn’t enjoyable. Still, there was no anger postgame. They still managed to take 2-of-3 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 just 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.”
Saunders is now 0-4 in four road starts. He’s allowed 36 hits and 26 runs in 182⁄3 innings for a road ERA of 12.54.
“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 usually 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 leadoff single to Rajai Davis to start the game. It was a sign of things to come. Davis would later score on a sacrifice fly by Jose Bautista.
Toronto tacked on two more runs in the second inning. A single and a double to start the inning led to an RBI single by Maicier Izturis and an RBI groundout by Munenori Kawasaki.
Saunders was able to get out of the third inning unscathed thanks to M’s center fielder 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 of the catch.
The Mariners cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2 in the top of the fifth, taking advantage of a four Brandon Morrow walks to score a pair of runs.
Joe Saunders surrendered a lead-off homer to Melky Cabrera to start the bottom of the fifth inning. 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 that was right down the middle of the plate 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 average to decent for the Mariners, there might not have been enough offense to win the game.
Morrow had a very Morrow-type outing. The former Mariners’ first-round draft pick 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.
Morrow gave up just 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 an infield single loaded the bases. The Mariners pushed a run across on a Robert Andino fielder’s choice. Another walk to Michael Saunders loaded the bases. Kyle Seager drove in a run 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 to with the three hits and five walks and two earned runs.