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Cruz grand slam leads Mariners to blowout win

July 23, 2016

TORONTO -- Nelson Cruz brought the big bat on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre, slamming a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, and driving in seven to help the Mariners clinch their weekend series with the Blue Jays and earn a 14-5 victory.Cruz recorded the 20th multi-homer game

TORONTO -- Nelson Cruz brought the big bat on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre, slamming a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, and driving in seven to help the Mariners clinch their weekend series with the Blue Jays and earn a 14-5 victory.
Cruz recorded the 20th multi-homer game of his career, belting his ninth career grand slam in the second inning and a smashing a three-run home run for good measure in the eighth inning.

In total, Seattle's offense matched a season-high with 19 hits on the afternoon and scored 10-plus runs for the ninth time this season. Kyle Seager's two-run shot ignited a five-run sixth inning, while Shawn O'Malley, Norichika Aoki and Robinson Canó finished with three hits apiece to lead the Mariners to their fourth victory in their last five games.
Much like James Paxton on Friday, Hisashi Iwakuma conntained the Blue Jays' power-hitting lineup, limiting Toronto to just four hits and two runs over six innings. Iwakuma picked up a season-high fifth consecutive victory, holding opponents to two runs or less in four of those five outings.
"He's been our most consistent guy all year, there's no doubt," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "When I say he wasn't as sharp early, it was more balls up. He had a hard time finding a rhythm, and then he kind of found it and got through it for us. When the offense gives you a little cushion like that, it sort of helps, and I think he relaxed when we got a few runs up on."

After coming out of the All-Star break on a roll, Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey struggled for a second consecutive start. The 41-year-old knuckleballer had his shortest outing as a Blue Jay and was pulled with the bases loaded and no one out in the fourth inning. Dickey allowed seven hits and six earned runs on the afternoon and has surrendered 11 total runs in his last two starts, both losses.
"It was a tough one to control today," Dickey said. "I hit two guys with it, it really took off inside a couple of lefties, but I really didn't give us much of a chance today. It was a really weird outing -- four infield hits and a couple of hit batters. I felt like it was an anomaly, really."

"Just hope you can hit it, I guess," Cruz said of facing Dickey's knuckleball. "I mean you see the catcher having trouble too to catch it. It's not easy. Sometimes I don't think [Dickey] knows where the ball is going. Try to put the ball in play and hope for the best."
On the board with a bang: Cruz broke the game open in the third with his ninth career grand slam. The Mariners' designated hitter took Dickey's 2-1 pitch deep over the centre field wall for his 24th home run of the season, giving Seattle a 4-1 lead. Cruz ties the record for most career grand slams against the Blue Jays with three, equaling the mark set by a former Mariner, Alvin Davis. More >
Saunders keeps swinging: After going deep in his first game against his former team on Friday, Michael Saunders tied his career-high with two more home runs on Saturday. Saunders notched solo shots in the sixth inning off Iwakuma and eighth inning off former Blue Jays farmhand Wade LeBlanc to give the All-Star outfielder 19 on the season.
"He's having a tremendous year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's when you know Michael's going good, when he's driving the ball to the opposite-field gap."

Knockout punch: After Dickey loaded the bases for the second time in as many innings, Aoki drove in Leonys Martin with a single, ending Dickey's afternoon early. The Mariners added another run when Seth Smith grounded into a double play that brought in Chris Iannetta. More >
Roughed up: Blue Jays reliever Jesse Chavez endured his worst relief outing of the season on Saturday, allowing five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. Chavez entered the game in the top of the sixth inning and allowed six hits -- including Seager's three-run home run. The 32-year-old entered Saturday's outing with a 3.25 ERA, but that number ballooned up to 4.42 after his difficult appearance.
"It's one of those games where everybody gets caught up when things start going bad," Gibbons said. "Usually everybody gets victimized, somewhat."

The eight earned runs allowed by the Blue Jays bullpen on Saturday are the most it has allowed since game two of a doubleheader against the Orioles on Sept. 30, 2015.
LeBlanc, who has eight years of Major League experience, recorded his first career save in the win.
The Blue Jays lost their challenge in the top of the sixth inning on a play at first off the bat of O'Malley. The Mariners' shortstop hit a slow roller toward third base, and first-base umpire Tim Timmons signaled that Josh Donaldson's throw to the bag was late. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the call, and replays confirmed the call on the field.

Mariners:Wade Miley (6-7, 5.36 ERA) gets the ball on Sunday as the Mariners conclude a three-game series with the Blue Jays, first pitch goes at 10:07 a.m. PT. The lefty surrendered three earned runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings while striking out four and walking three his last time out against the White Sox on Tuesday. Miley is 1-2 with a 6.98 ERA in four career starts against the Blue Jays.
Blue Jays: Former Mariner J.A. Happ (12-3, 3.43 ERA) squares off against his old team in the finale of Toronto's three game-series with Seattle. Happ was traded from the Mariners to the Pirates last season and will be looking to set a new career-high with his 13th win of the season. First pitch is set for 1:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre.
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Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for based in Toronto.

Dhiren Mahiban is a contributor to