Trailing 7-2, the Mariners rallied for six runs on four hits and an error in the fifth inning, including Justin Smoak’s two-run double and Humberto Quinero’s two-run homer, and held on with a remarkable effort from the bullpen to take a 9-7 slugfest from the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday. The Mariners prevented the Canadians and their annoying fans from a sweep.
The Mariners seemed doomed when, after taking a 2-0 lead, starter Aaron Harang was knocked around for seven runs before the end of the third inning. But they battled back with a run in the fourth and then exploded in the fifth. Even with that, it took five relievers to shut the door and erase Harange’s stinker.
The Mariners, who had lost six of their previous eight, improved to 53-61. Fifty-two of their 114 games have been decided by two or fewer runs.
While Smoak and Quintero delivered, Seattle’s bullpen saved the day. Starting with winner Brandon Mauer (3-7), who did not allow a run in three innings, and ending with Danny Farquhar, who recorded his third save, Mariners relievers worked seven innings without allowing a run.
The 34-year-old Quintero, the backup catcher whose homer gave Seattle the 9-7 lead, is 8-for-22 with two home runs in his six-game Seattle career. He had three RBIs Wednesday. Seattle’s starting catcher, 41-year-old Henry Blanco, has three home runs; together, they have five in 23 games.
Jesus Montero, now on unpaid suspension for PED use, and Kelly Shoppach started the season as Seattle’s catchers. They hit a combined six homers in 64 games.
The Mariners put up two quickly against starter J.A. Happ when Nick Franklin’s triple scored Brad Miller, and Kyle Seager’s ground ball brought home Franklin. Franklin’s triple snapped an 0-for-27 slump.
Toronto exploded for five in the second against Harang, whose woes began when he walked Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind. After Colby Rasmus flew out, Brett Lawrie delivered an RBI single, Josh Thole hit a two-run double, Jose Reyes knocked in another run with a ground ball and Emilio Bonifacio’s bunt single to short scored Thole.
Harang survived that carnage, but not the third inning when Encarnacion (30th) and Lind ripped solo homers, giving Toronto a 7-2 lead. Acting manager Robby Thompson quickly hooked Harang after he had allowed seven earned runs on five hits in two innings. Harang didn’t record a strikeout and walked three in one of his most miserable outings of the season.
The Mariners are running out of season, but Harang is running out of rope: Fortunate to receive a no-decision, his ERA jumped to 5.79.
The Mariners got a back run in the fourth when Quintero hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Michael Saunders, who singled, extending his hitting streak to eight games.
Seattle got Franklin and Seager aboard in the fifth with no outs, setting up Kendrys Morales for a double that scored Franklin, making it 7-4. When Morse walked, loading the bases, the Blue Jays jerked Happ and brought in Aaron Loup. The Mariners would like to see more of Loup.
A fielder’s choice by Saunders scored Seager, making it 7-5, and then Smoke ripped his 16th double off the wall in left to tie the game. Quintero followed with his game-winner.
But Maurer choked on Seattle’s good fortune, loading the bases with one out for Charlie Furbush, brought in to face Lind. Fubush took Maurer off the hook by fanning Lind and inducing Colby Rasmus to ground out.
Farquhar faced 7-8-9 in the Blue Jays ninth, allowing only a single to Thole. He fanned Reyes to end the game.
Happ, making his first start since May 7 when he suffered a fractured skull when hit in the head by a line drive, did not factor in the decision.
The Mariners are off Thursday before beginning a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers Friday at Safeco Field. In the series opener, LHP Joe Saunders (10-10, 4.58) will contest RHP Kyle Lohse (7-7, 3.23). The Brewers, originally the Seattle Pilots (1969), have never played at Safeco Field. Seattle last met the Brewers at Miller Park in 2010.
NOTES: Manager Eric Wedge came by before the game to talk to players, but he didn’t stay for the game. No timetable was given for his return . . . The Mariners will hold their second fireworks night of the season Friday following the Brewers game, which begins at 7:10 p.m. . . . Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame Saturday beginning at 5:30 prior to the 6:10 p.m. start against Milwaukee. The game is sold out except for scattered singles. Any returned tickets will be made available at www.mariners.com.
Blanco and Quintero have been an unexpected joy so far. Hopefully it will help them extend their careers. I wouldn’t mind Blanco being the backup next season if he can beat out Sucre in spring training.