By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Mariners are running out of space in the medical room.
Dustin Ackley joined fellow injured outfielders Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and Michael Morse when he sprained his thumb while trying to make a diving catch in the ninth inning Saturday afternoon. He’s day-to-day.
Two innings later, Alfonso Soriano provided the extra-inning insult to injury when he hit a two-run home run off Oliver Perez in the 11th to give the Chicago Cubs a 5-3 win over Seattle at a well-populated Safeco Field.
Ackley came charging in, dove, and came up short in the top of the ninth. His momentum pushed his glove into the ground and rolled his body over his left wrist. He instantly knew there was a problem, sitting up without his glove.
He walked off with trainer Rick Griffin holding his left hand.
Ackley’s injury, on top of Friday’s finger injury to Saunders, put the Mariners in an odd spot.
Morse and Gutierrez are on the disabled list. Jason Bay, who pinch ran in the eighth inning for designated hitter Kendrys Morales, moved from the designated hitter spot to right field. Endy Chavez moved from right to center.
The juggling caused the Mariners to forfeit the designated hitter and left them with just backup catcher Blanco as a bench option. Blanco walked in the bottom of the ninth when he hit in the pitcher’s spot, emptying the Seattle bench.
That’s why pitcher Joe Saunders was at the plate in the bottom of the 11th, flying out to center field to end the game.
“No other alternative,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Prior to the game, Wedge knew that Michael Saunders was only available to pinch run after he was spiked Friday night, damaging the middle finger of his right hand. Wedge had pinch hit Nick Franklin in the seventh for Brendan Ryan, eliminating him from the bench.
Michael Saunders said he has not swung a bat since Friday, though he plans on testing things Sunday morning. His finger was capped with a protective cover postgame Saturday. The fingernail never ripped off, giving Saunders hope he can swing Sunday, if necessary.
Wedge had put Bay in for Morales in the near-miss eighth. Morales singled with one out and was replaced by Bay with the Mariners down 3-2. The count on Raul Ibanez moved to 3-1 before Bay was picked off trying to steal second against left-hander James Russell.
Ibanez doubled on the next pitch. Justin Smoak followed with a hard liner to left, which Brian Bogusevic charged, scooped and threw home. Ibanez was sent toward the plate by third base coach Daren Brown, but was thrown out, leaving the Mariners scoreless in the three-hit inning.
All the shuffling left Blanco at the plate in the ninth with one out, and the Mariners trailing by a run. He walked. Michael Saunders pinch ran for him. Franklin’s fielder’s choice pushed Saunders to second. Chavez’s single to center on the next pitch easily scored the speedy Canadian to tie the game and snap an 0-for-19 streak.
After a quiet 10th inning, Soriano hit a two-run homer to center field off Perez. which left the lefty with a counter-intuitive complaint.
Perez (2-2) said his fastball to Soriano was too far down in the strike zone, a rare negative for pitchers. In Soriano’s case, that’s a location that results in lament.
“Everybody knows Soriano is a very good low-ball hitter and he just golfs the ball,” Perez said.
That final shot in the 11th undid a solid day of work for Seattle starter Aaron Harang. Harang allowed three earned runs in eight innings.
Smoak homered in the second and Ackley knocked home Mike Zunino two batters later to give the Mariners an unmaintained 2-1 lead.
In the end, Saturday hurt all around.