Wow, did not see that coming. With one out to go, nobody on and the Mariners down a pair, Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak hit back-to-back jacks off of Chris Perez to tie the game. Smoak’s homer was to right-center and the crowd here knew it was gone the moment he connected.
So, it’s 4-4.
The big hero if the Mariners come back to win this thing could be Danny Farquhar, who retired all eight hitters he faced in his Mariners debut. Oliver Perez now on to pitch the bottom of the ninth.
12:26 p.m.: Better get the pantry stocked because the Apocalypse might be upon us. Brendan Ryan just hit a home run — yes, a real one, not in a video game — to cut the Cleveland lead to 4-2 here in the eighth inning. Justin Smoak had just missed a home run off Zach McAllister earlier in the inning on a blast off the left field wall. Then, Ryan unloaded into the wind (blowing out, we assume) and all of a suden, the Mariners are back in a game they’d previously shown zero signs of wanting to be a part of.
12:05 p.m.: Joe Saunders is going to stay winless on the road, having needed 120 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings today with his team now on the short end of a 4-0 score as we start the seventh. Saunders kept it close until the sixth, but then allowed a leadoff double to Mike Aviles and then a single to left by Yan Gomes in which Aviles somehow failed to advance. No matter as Drew Stubbs bunted both up by a base, then speedy Michael Bourn hit a slow hopper to shortstop. Brendan Ryan decided his best play was to the plate, but Aviles beat the throw for the run.
Jason Kipnis then singled to left for the fourth run of the day and that was it for Saunders.
The Mariners have been nearly invisible on offense with just three hits so far. They aren’t moving guy over when they do get men on base. They’d best show up soon, or this one is done.
11:30 a.m.: Joe Saunders caught a break with the wind here, then did not. First, a huge break when what looked like a two-run homer to left by Nick Swisher in the fifth got blown back towards the field of play where it was caught by Raul Ibanez. Indians baserunner Asdrubal Cabrera sure thought the all was gone because he wound up doubled off first base by about a half mile. Shortly after, though, Mark Reynolds hit a two-out fly to left that Ibanez tried to camp under — only he couldn’t, because the wind must have shifted and this time, the ball left the yard.
So, it’s 2-0 for the Indians. But it could be worse.
10:25 a.m.: Not a good start for Joe Saunders or the Mariners, who trail 1-0 after an inning of play. Saunders got two quick groundouts to begin the bottom of the first, but then yielded a single to Asdrubal Cabrera, walked Nick Swisher, then allowed a single to right by Mark Reynolds that brought the run home.
Endy Chavez began the game with a double to center, but the Mariners were then retired on three straight flyballs to left field.
9:50 a.m.: This is a big start for “Safeco Joe” Saunders today. His home-road splits have become a bit of a running joke, but nobody on the Mariners is laughing and Saunders sure isn’t.
Saunders is 9-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 13 career starts at Safeco Field. He’s 3-0 with an 0.94 ERA in four starts there this season.
Problem is, he’s 0-4 with a 12.54 ERA on the road.
For the Mariners to be a winning team and contend this season, they need more stability after the top two guys in the rotation. Saunders is being paid $6.5 million to provide some of that stability, but, so far, as you can see, he’s been rather unstable.
That has to change. A mid-rotation starter doesn’t have to win every game. But he does have to deliver quality innings on a routine basis regardless of the ballpark. Otherwise, he’s just fourth or fifth starter material. The Mariners right now have too many guys delivering those performances. They need Saunders to do more. He can start by delivering a good performance in a road game.