Errors contribute to blowout loss to Brewers
Saunders allows nine runs in 4 1/3 innings, five unearned
SEATTLE -- Fielding errors put Mariners starter Joe Saunders in a hole early, and former Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt added insult to injury with a grand slam in the Brewers' 10-5 victory Friday at Safeco Field.
Saunders labored due to defensive miscues early in the game. By Betancourt's fifth-inning slam, the Mariners were down, 5-2. While none of the runs scored at that point were earned by Saunders, he struggled visibly in the inning, loading the bases for the 31-year-old Betancourt via a single and two walks.
The Mariners entered Friday's game 11th in the Major Leagues with only 60 errors. However, they have not been sharp recently, committing four errors in Tuesday's loss to the Blue Jays. Since the All-Star break, Seattle has made 19 fielding errors, tied for third-most in the Major Leagues.
"It's been frustrating, it's more frustrating as we continue on," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "Joe Saunders didn't pitch that bad, he got ground balls and we didn't make plays behind him, a little careless. [Third baseman] Kyle's [Seager] had a rough stretch here as of late. ... You don't make those outs and [Saunders'] pitch count goes up and I think he was a little bit tired there and walked a couple of them."
The Brewers played their first regular-season game in Seattle since 1997, but for Betancourt, the surroundings were much more familiar. Betancourt was the Mariners' shortstop for 4 1/2 seasons, hitting .289 in both 2006 and '07 before he was traded to the Royals in '09.
Known for his aggressive approach, Betancourt drew a walk in just 3 percent of his plate appearances in '08, the worst percentage in baseball. However, he also had one of the lowest strikeout rates in the Majors.
"Always, when you hit a grand slam, you feel great, and especially today when you played here for five years," Betancourt said. "When you get a hit here, it feels a little more exciting."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had a feeling Betancourt would say that.
"I think the adrenaline there is different," Roenicke said. "I know Jose Guillen, when he came back and played the Angels, I hated to see him come into the ballpark, because I knew he was going to really concentrate and get some hits. And he always did."
Seattle's offense mustered just three runs off Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse, despite collecting seven hits and three walks, with the Brewers committing a pair of errors themselves. Rookie shortstop Brad Miller was a bright spot for the Mariners, offensively, amassing three hits, including his eighth double of the season.
Milwaukee took a two-run lead in the third inning when Scooter Gennett took first on a throwing error by second baseman Nick Franklin, and was advanced to third when Seager committed a throwing error following a single by Martin Maldonado, who advanced to second on the throw. Norichika Aoki brought both runners home with a ground-rule double to left-center to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.
"We're all human, these guys do just like you do at the plate," Thompson said. "You run into a little bit of trouble at the plate, try to figure things out and now you're in a slump or what have you. It doesn't happen as much defensively, but it does happen and you have to fight your way through it."
Seattle tied things up in the bottom of the frame, when Seager mitigated his error with a two-run single. Justin Smoak added a two-run home run in the eighth, following a two-out error by reliever Alfredo Figaro to put Raul Ibanez aboard, for the game's final score.
Carter Capps pitched well in relief for Seattle, allowing just one hit in two innings while striking out two batters. The strikeouts ended the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
Another error by Seager proved costly in the fourth. Carlos Gomez hustled home from first base after Betancourt's grounder ricocheted off the third baseman and into the outfield, but was ordered back to third when home-plate umpire Dan Bellino ruled that a fan touched the ball in play.
"Oh, they're good they're here for a reason -- because they can play and they've done well for us since they've been here," Smoak said of the infield's fielding struggles. "At 26, I think I'm the old guy, so it's just one of those things where you learn from your mistake and they'll be fine."
Roenicke argued the call and was ejected from the game. He needn't have worried, as the Brewers scored three runs in the inning -- all unearned against Saunders -- to take a three-run lead they never relinquished.
Erasmo Ramirez, who was scheduled to start, but was skipped in the rotation, relieved Saunders after the slam, giving up three hits and a run before the inning was over. Pitching coach Carl Willis said that the relief action would not jeopardize Ramirez's next scheduled start Tuesday at the Rays.