Mariners battle to beat Astros with just one hit
Saunders' RBI double ends no-hit bid and drives in winning runs
HOUSTON -- Astros left-hander Erik Bedard no-hit his former Mariners team for 6 1/3 innings on Saturday, but wound up the losing pitcher on a strange night when Seattle pulled out a 4-2 victory despite managing just one hit and striking out 15 times.
Bedard, who pitched three seasons for Seattle from 2008-11, was removed by Astros manager Bo Porter with one out in the seventh after issuing his fifth walk and reaching 109 pitches. Two of those walks came around to score in the sixth and his final free pass resulted in the go-ahead run when Michael Saunders ripped a two-RBI double off reliever Jose Cisnero after replacing Bedard in the seventh.
"That's the oddest win I've ever been a part of," said Saunders. "To score two runs on no hits and no errors, I don't remember the last time that happened. We're just grinding out at-bats. Bedard pitched great -- a no-hitter -- and ended up taking the loss. I don't know how that happens."
It happened largely because Saunders finally found a way to get a ball to drop in, driving his double deep to center field over the head of Brandon Barnes to the base of the hill in the oddly-configured Minute Maid Park outfield.
"That was the longest double I've ever had," Saunders said. "I definitely put a good swing on it. I guess if the hill isn't out there, maybe he runs it down. Or if the hill isn't out there, maybe it's a home run. I don't know. But it fell, we won and that's all that matters."
"Michael Saunders was huge for us tonight," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "That ball goes out of any other ballpark, as we all know. Still, the guy had a chance to catch it so I was glad it fell in there. And then that catch [Saunders] made in the ninth inning was huge."
Bedard, 34, thus wound up the losing pitcher, falling to 3-7 on the season despite striking out 10 and not allowing a hit in 6 1/3 innings or a baserunner for the first four frames.
Since 1916, only one other team has scored four-plus runs while recording one or fewer hits, that coming in 1990 when the White Sox beat the Yankees 4-0 despite getting no hits.
Only five previous pitchers in baseball history had thrown six-plus innings without a hit and allowed at least two runs, the last being Matt Young with the Red Sox in 1992.
Bedard had no issues with being pulled when his pitch count hit 109, which equaled his season high. He told Porter, "I'm done," when the skipper came to the mound in the seventh.
"I've had three shoulder surgeries, so I'm not going over 110," Bedard said. "I'd rather pitch a couple more years than face another batter."
Bedard hadn't thrown more than 7 1/3 innings in a start this season and had just one complete game in his career, back in 2007 with the Orioles.
Bedard was making his second start against the Mariners since being traded away in July of 2011. The 34-year-old lefty threw four scoreless innings with just one hit against Seattle on April 9, but was taken out of that game after throwing 66 pitches in his first start of the year.
Mariners All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma got the win after allowing two runs on seven hits over seven innings. Iwakuma is now 9-4 with a 2.99 ERA as Seattle won its fifth straight to improve to 45-52.
The Mariners have been held to one hit or fewer 19 times in franchise history and have actually won three of those, having also topped the Yankees in 2002 in a 1-0 one-hit game and the Rangers 2-0 in 1989 on a one-hitter.
The Mariners scored two runs to tie the game in the sixth despite never squaring up a ball against Bedard, who walked three in that frame along with a pair of passed balls.
Saunders and Brad Miller walked with one out and moved up on the first passed ball by catcher Jason Castro. Saunders then scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Franklin and Miller crossed the plate after Castro's second passed ball on a pitch wide of the plate.
Bedard needed 28 pitches to get through that inning as his pitch count climbed to 101. He then walked Justin Smoak with one out in the seventh, with one of his pitches flying all the way to the backstop, before Porter pulled the plug.
Cisnero got one out before walking Mike Zunino and giving up Saunders' go-ahead double.
Charlie Furbush replaced Iwakuma and threw a perfect eighth with two strikeouts before closer Tom Wilhelmsen came in to notch his 21st save, helped by a great running catch by Saunders to rob Justin Maxwell of a likely leadoff double in the ninth.
"That's the play of the day," said Wilhelmsen. "Or maybe his double as well. He closed down on that sucker so fast. That ball was smoked. I was like 'Holy cow.' He was full extension. Incredible catch. Huge."
The whole game fell into that category for the Mariners, who will look to close out their second straight series sweep on Sunday after not sweeping a series the entire first half until the final weekend before the All-Star break against the Angels.
"What a crazy game," said Wilhelmsen. "Kuma got in some trouble and bailed out of it every single time. Obviously, Bedard threw that great game. Those are games that winning ballclubs win. And we're on our way. "
The Mariners saw their club-record streak of 23 straight games with a home run end, leaving them one short of tying the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the fifth longest streak in Major League history since records began being kept in 1916.