By Greg Johns /MLB.com
TORONTO (ISN) – Victoria, BC native Michael Saunders hit two home-runs, including a 10th inning grand slam, to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 9-5 10-inning win over the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Saunders’ two home-runs came in his final two at-bats as the Mariners won their fourth straight. Saunders finished with a career-high five RBIs and now has three home runs and 11 RBIs after re-inheriting the starting center field job this season from an injured Franklin Gutierrez.
The center-field crowd spent much of the game riding Saunders, but he silenced them in the end with the 14th and 15th home runs of his Major League career.
“I was getting [razzed] all game,” the 25-year-old said with a smile. “That’s the name of the game though. They paid, they bought the tickets and they have the right to do that. Maybe it was even worse, being a West Coast Canadian, I don’t know. But they were having fun and, in the end, I guess we had the last laugh.”
Saunders also hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth as Seattle rallied from a 5-3 deficit. It was the second multi-home run game of his career and the first slam in his four seasons in the Majors.
“That was unbelievable,” said Mariners closer Brandon League, who watched the go-ahead slam fly over his head in the right-field bullpen before coming on to finish out the victory. “To do it in Canada, too, makes it even better. During the game, you could hear the fans ragging on him in center field. To hit that first home run was nice. Then the game-winning grand slam, I don’t know how you can get any better than that.”
The Mariners already needed to score twice in the top of the ninth off Toronto closer Francisco Cordero to send the game into extra innings, coming through on a solo home run by Saunders and then a pinch-hit RBI single by John Jaso after a pair of Toronto errors put the tying run on third with two outs.
Jaso delivered with his sixth RBI in 13 at-bats this season. Dustin Ackley was thrown out at the plate trying to score the go-ahead run on the same play, but the Mariners finished the job in the 10th against lefty reliever Luis Perez, who hadn’t been scored on in 12 2/3 previous innings this season.
Rookie designated hitter Jesus Montero also hit his third home run of the season with a bolt that helped chase Toronto ace Ricky Romero in the seventh, while manager Eric Wedge used all of his position players and all but one reliever in his bullpen in an all-out push for the series-opening win.
“Obviously I feel good right now,” said Saunders, “But more importantly, I’m happy that we’re continuing to swing the bats and we won tonight. We came back and it just goes to show the character in this locker room right now. It wasn’t just a couple hits, it was a full-team game.
“[Blake] Beavan pitched great. The bullpen came in and shut it down. Jaso had a huge hit off their closer coming cold off the bench. He’s really the reason we were able to continue into the 10th inning. So tonight isn’t just about the homer there, it’s a great team win.”
Jaso said he’s just enjoying being part of a young team that is gaining confidence by the day on this road trip, which began with a three-game sweep in Detroit.
“It’s good. It’s promising. It adds life, a little flavor here,” Jaso said of the dramatic win. “It’s good to see some of the young guys doing well. That home run by Saunders, the [Jesus] Montero home run, all those things are awesome to see out of the young talent here.”
The Mariners gave Beavan a little more run support than in his last outing — the perfect game loss to the White Sox’s Philip Humber — though they again didn’t get a hit until Ackley led off the sixth with a double.
The win wound up going to reliever Charlie Furbush, who got the final two outs in the ninth before League finished things off.
Beavan went 5 2/3 innings — falling one out shy of his fourth straight quality start — while giving up three runs on seven hits. He had four strikeouts with no walks, now having pitched 25 innings with just two bases on balls this season.
“I felt good,” Beavan said. “I thought some of the pitches they hit were pretty good pitches. For the most part, I felt twice as good as I did my last start, but I had the same results. That’s just how baseball goes.”
It helps when the offense delivers and the opposing team commits a pair of ninth-inning throwing errors to set up the tying run. The Mariners have scored 34 runs and racked up 56 hits in five games since Humber’s perfect game and now sit 11-10 on the season.
“I don’t know if you can get any higher than we are right now,” League said in the happy clubhouse. “We had a great series against the Tigers and now this. Things are just going our way.”
On the flip side, the Blue Jays suffered their fourth straight loss and nobody took it harder than third baseman Brett Lawrie, whose throwing error on a Kyle Seager pinch-hit grounder with two outs in the ninth set up Jaso’s tying single. Jaso delivered after pinch runner Munenori Kawasaki scooted to third when catcher J.P. Arencibia threw the ball into right field on a wild pickoff attempt.
“We definitely gave one away tonight,” said Lawrie. “Cordero did his job, I couldn’t make the play — threw the ball in the dirt, opened the door and they stepped right in.”