Once considered the Mariners’ shortstop of the future, Yuniesky Betancourt never lived up to expectations during his tenure in Seattle (2005-09) and faded into an undistinguished journeyman after departing. But Friday night at Safeco Field, Betancourt struck the crushing blow, a grand slam off Joe Saunders that helped the Milwaukee Brewers to a 10-5 romp over the Mariners.
After jumping out to a 5-2 lead on Saunders in the third, the Brewers dispatched 10 men to the plate in the fifth, scoring five times on five hits, Betancourt’s salami the capper that gave Milwaukee a 9-2 advantage.
The Mariners didn’t put up much resistance against the 66-loss Brewers until Justin Smoak ripped a two-run homer in the eighth, scratching out six hits before that poke. Saunders, meanwhile, allowed four earned runs and was victimized by a pair of Seattle errors that led to two runs.
The grand slam assured Saunders’ 11th loss against 10 wins, to the dismay of 34,827 fans, most of them at Safeco to enjoy a post-game fireworks spectacular.
Saunders won five of his previous seven starts but lasted just 4.1 innings.
The Mariners (53-62) are hardly having the kind of home stand they wanted on the weekend of Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction into the team’s Hall of Fame. With a dismal, three-error effort Friday, they have dropped three of four, lost nine of their last 13 and are 5-9 since the end of their eight-game winning streak.
Highlights were scant. Smoak’s home run extended his hitting streak to nine games and Brad Miller went 3-for-5, but the Mariners have been outscored on the home stand 27-17.
Saunders recorded two scoreless innings before the Brewers got to him for a pair of runs in the third. It started with a throwing error on Nick Franklin, was fueled by another error on Kyle Seager, and capped by Norichika Aoki’s double to left, which scored Scooter Gennett and Martin Maldonado. Aoki finished with three RBIs.
The Mariners got the two back in the third. After Smoak walked and Michael Saunders and Miller singled, Seager delivered a two-run single.
The Brewers took a 5-2 lead on an RBI single by Jeff Bianchi and Maldonado’s two-run double, and then busted it open in the fifth when Betancourt launched his grand slam on a 1-and-1 count. An RBI single by Aoki made it 10-2.
Franklin’s RBI single with two outs in the seventh, following a Saunders walk and Miller’s single, gave the Mariners their third run.
Saturday, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (10-5, 2.75) will work for Seattle opposite LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2-4, 2.78). Gorzelanny is a late substitute for Tom Thornburg.
At 5:30 p.m., the Mariners will begin the ceremonies with Griffey. Gates open at 3:45 p.m.
After the series ender Sunday, the Mariners will take Monday off and begin a three-game series at Tampa Bay Tuesday. That starts a nine-game road trip that will also take the Mariners through the top two teams in the AL West, Texas and Oakland.
NOTES: Now that Milwaukee is here, every major league team has made an appearance iat Safeco . . . The Brewers had not played in Seattle since Aug. 12, 1997, when they were in the American League . . . The Mariners skipped Erasmo Ramirez’s start following the off-day Thursday, which means Ramirez will go 10 days between starts. Ramirez became available to work in relief and did so Friday, logging 1.2 innings. He’s scheduled to start Tuesday at Tampa Bay . . . Franklin Gutierrez will begin his fourth rehab assignment Saturday. Due to a variety of ailments, Gutierrez has played in just 58 games over the past two years.