Joe Saunders tossed another one of his Safeco Field gems, the amazing Raul Ibanez ripped two more into the seats, and the Mariners, setting a franchise record for consecutive games with a home run, raced to a 6-0 lead Friday night and thrashed the Los Angeles Angels 8-3. The Mariners (41-52) snapped a three-game losing streak.
Ibanez’s homers were his 23rd and 24th of the season. Only Ted Williams (29 in 1960) and Barry Bonds (28 in 2007 and 26 in 2006) hit more in a year after turning 41 years old. Ibanez’s 24 homers are also the most in major league history by a player 41 or older before the All-Star break. Ibanez has three multi-homer games this season.
Saunders scattered five hits over 7.0 innings with five strikeouts and two walks in squaring his record at 8-8. Saunders has won three consecutive starts for the first time this season and lowered his ERA from 4.51 to 4.24.
After Seattle’s over-taxed bullpen gave up three runs in the eighth, Yoervis Medina worked a 1-2-3 ninth to give the Mariners their 41st win against 52 losses.
The Mariners have scored 38 in their past five games. In addition to three hits by Ibanez, rookie catcher Mike Zunino also had three, the first three-hit game of his career.
Ibanez doubled in the first, scoring Michael Saunders, who had singled, and Kyle Seager homered in the second, a solo shot, to give Seattle a 2-0 lead. Seager’s blast, his 15th, set the franchise mark for consecutive games with a home run, 20, breaking the mark of 19 set from Sept. 7-27, 1999 when Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner were in their Seattle heydays.
The Mariners then tacked on four more runs in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead.
Ibanez started it off with long ball on a 3-and -1 count, a shot that traveled an estimated 438 feet into the Hit It Here Cafe outdoor seating. Mike Zunino and Dustin Ackley followed with a run-scoring singles and Zunino scored on a wild pitch.
Ibanez came back in the seventh with a solo shot on a 2-and-1 count and Kendrys Morales followed with another homer, his 14th, giving Seattle an 8-0 lead.
After Saunders departed, reliever Danny Farquahar spoiled a chance for a shutout by giving up an infield single to Erik Aybar, a triple to Mike Trout and a run-scoring single to Albert Pujols, meriting a well-deserved hook from manager Eric Wedge. After Lucas Luetge yielded a double to Josh Hamilton, Luetge exited in favor of Medina, who threw a ground-ball out to Mark Trumbo that scored Pujols to make it 8-3.
The second game of the series Saturday night features Felix Hernandez (9-4, 2.69) against Jered Weaver (3-4, 3.38). Hernandez is seeking his 10th win. If he gets it, he will set a personal high for most wins before the All-Star break.
NOTES: Kyle Seager’s home run in the second inning, his 15th, extended his hitting streak to 12 games, a season high . . . Second baseman Nick Franklin was held out of the lineupfor the second consecutive night, nursing a sore knee . . . The Mariners made four roster moves involving their pitching staff Friday. They sent RHP Erasmo Ramirez, the starter Thursday night against Boston, to short-A Everett, optioned RHP Blake Beavan to AAA Tacoma, and recalled relievers Hector Noesi and Bobby LaFromboise from the Rainiers. Sending Ramirez to Everett will allow him to get in a start during the All-Star break and then be recalled to make another start for Seattle . . . Raul Ibanez has been nominated for the Branch Rickey Award, which recognizes a major league player, manager, coach or executive for “contributions to the community or their status as a role model.”