SEATTLE — After two tough starts on the road, Joe Saunders was back home where he is nearly invincible.
Saunders allowed his first earned run in three home starts this season but pitched his eighth career complete game to lead the Seattle Mariners over the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 Monday night before the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history.
Saunders (2-3) gave up four hits, walked one and struck out two in his first complete game since April 27, 2012, while improving to 8-0 at the Mariners’ home. This season, he is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in Seattle and 0-3 with a 12.51 ERA in three road starts, although neither he nor his manager can explain the numbers.
“I don’t know,” Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said. “That’s the beauty of baseball. Some guys just have more success against certain teams, or certain hitters, or at certain places.”
In his last two starts, Sanders didn’t get past the fifth inning, allowing seven runs at Texas and then eight runs at Houston. The left-hander said he’d been bothered by soreness in his quadriceps against the Astros, but was pain-free against the Orioles as he finished them off in 105 pitches.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Saunders said. “I pride myself on being a good road pitcher, and haven’t done that well this year. In my mind, I need to be a lot more consistent.”
The Mariners’ offense also made things easy for their starting pitcher, beginning with leadoff hitter Michael Saunders, who homered in his first at-bat since he was activated from the disabled list.
Michael Saunders sprained his right shoulder April 10 when he crashed into the fence while making a catch. He sent Zach Britton’s second pitch into the right-center seats for his first career leadoff home run.
Kyle Seager had a two-run triple and Jason Bay added three hits as the Mariners won their third straight game for their longest winning streak of the season. Their latest victory came in front of 9,818 fans at the 14-year-old ballpark.
Joe Saunders’ only costly mistake came when Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead. It was the last hit for the Orioles.
Seattle broke the game open against Britton (0-1), who gave up six runs and 10 hits over six innings in his first start of the season after being called up from Triple-A Norfolk.
“After the home run, I was dog-cussing myself in the dugout because I didn’t want to make a mistake,” Joe Saunders said. “For the guys to come back like they did, and keep going off a pretty good sinkerball pitcher in Britton, it was impressive to watch and it was fun to watch.”
Britton got into trouble after a strange sequence in the sixth. After Justin Smoak singled to start the inning, umpire Alan Porter made a hard throw to give Britton the new ball, hitting the left-hander on his throwing shoulder, and the pitcher was briefly shaken up.
“The umpire smoked me. I had no idea. I was looking down at the ball, and all of a sudden another ball hit me. It didn’t feel great,” Britton said. “It kind of hit a nerve so it tingled a little bit, but it was fine after that.”
When he returned to the mound it didn’t get any better.
Bay followed with his third hit of the game and, after Robert Andino’s sacrifice, Brendan Ryan hit an RBI single. It looked as if Britton might get out of the inning when Michael Saunders hit a weak, broken-bat grounder to second base, but the ball was too slow for the Orioles to turn a double play, and Seager followed with his triple.
“We’ve all got a good momentum,” Andino said. “Everybody’s pitching in, doing their part, passing the baton and we’ve got a good flow going on right now.”
NOTES: Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, the fourth selection in the 2011 amateur draft, received a platelet-rich plasma injection and will rest for six weeks. Bundy has what manager Buck Showalter termed a flexor mass, which caused pain in his forearm and elbow. “We’re just going to take a conservative approach and get it resolved,” Showalter said. “We look forward to him getting going in six weeks.” … After the game, Baltimore optioned C Luis Exposito to Triple-A Norfolk. Before the game, Showalter said the Orioles might activate C Chris Snyder on Tuesday. Snyder was acquired in a trade from the Angels after backup catcher Taylor Teagarden was placed on the disabled list Sunday. … Seattle optioned OF Carlos Peguero to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for Michael Saunders.