By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
TORONTO — They hadn’t won four games in a row in 11 months and when the Seattle Mariners got to the ninth inning Friday they were down two runs to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Of course, they’d been down one run after two innings, fought back to tie only to trail again after eight.
“We kept scrapping all night, we fought back and put ourselves in position to win late,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Win? How about just catching up?
The Mariners did just that in the ninth inning, using a Michael Saunders solo home run, two Blue Jays errors and John Jaso’s two-out pinch-hit single — then blew it open in the 10th when three singles loaded ’em up and Saunders grand slam unloaded ’em.
Seattle 9, Toronto 5.
By the time Brandon League finished, the Mariners had no one left on their bench and only one pitcher — Hisashi Iwakuma — remaining in the bullpen.
Talk about using the roster. Wedge used two pinch-hitters, a pinch-runner and, in the 10th, had Hector Noesi warming up to run, not pitch.
“I got my spikes on and was ready,” said Noesi, who almost-but-not-quite ran for Justin Smoak with Smoak at third base and one out. “My plan was to steal home. I’m a pitcher, what can I lose? They’d never expect me to run.”
Thinking like that, perhaps, was why Wedge didn’t use Noesi. That, and the fact the Mariners had no position players remaining had Noesi pinch run.
Saunders, the likeable Canadian who spent most of the night being teased relentlessly by a crowd of 24,303 — chanting “Saunders! Saunders!” — then broke the Blue Jays’ hearts with his second home run of the night.
His first came an inning earlier, with the Mariners down 5-3, and made it 5-4.
“This was about a lot more than those two hits,” Saunders said. “What a great game to win.”
The Mariners pitching?
Blake Beavan started, got two outs in the sixth inning and, having allowed three runs, left the game with two men on base. Reliever Erasmo Ramirez got out of the inning.
After that, the Mariners used Steve Delabar, Lucas Luetge, Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush and League. Behind them, the Seattle defense was often spectacular.
Third baseman Alex Liddi saved a run with a diving stop in the second inning with a Blue Jay on third, Saunders made a running catch at his knees to end the sixth with two on.
And in the seventh, with two on and two out, Adam Lind singled to right field. Ichiro Suzuki fielded the ball on a hop and threw home to catcher Miguel Olivo, who flung himself across the baseline to tag J.P. Arencibia for the third out of the inning. “That was a great play, on both ends,” Wedge said.
For all that, the Mariners trailed 3-1 after five innings and didn’t have a hit. Beavan, whose last start was Philip Humber’s perfect game, was losing on a no-hitter.
The Mariners first run? Two walks and a throwing error on Brett Lawrie.
In the sixth inning, Jesus Montero homered to cut the lead to 3-2, and with Olivo on first base after a single, Casper Wells doubled — and Olivo scored to tie.
Wilhelmsen gave up two in the eighth, and the Mariners came up in the ninth against closer Francisco Cordero.
With one out, Saunders homered: 5-4.
With two outs, Wells was safe when Lawrie threw away his ground ball to extend the inning. Worse for Toronto, a moment later — during a Dustin Ackley at-bat — catcher Arencibia tried to pick pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki off first.
His throw sailed into right field and Kawasaki took third base. Hitting for Brendan Ryan, Jaso singled Kawasaki home for the tie.
“There was a lot of cheering in the ninth inning in the clubhouse,” Delabar said.
It got louder.
With one out in the 10th, Smoak, Montero and Liddi each singled, loading the bases and putting slow pokes at second and third. Left-handed specialist Luis Perez jumped ahead of Saunders, 1-2.
“I knew we had to get a run home and a fly ball would do it,” Saunders said. “I was looking for a pitch I could hit up.”
He got one and hit the first career grand slam of his career.