Veteran Blanco clutch as Mariners defeat Orioles

Todd Karpovich, SportsXchange
The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- Seattle's Henry Blanco has a penchant for big hits this season, despite limited at-bats as a back-up catcher.
In Sunday's series finale against Baltimore, the 41-year-old journeyman delivered again, providing his team with a much-needed boost.
Blanco hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh, leading the Mariners to a 3-2 victory over the Orioles before an announced 30,759 at Oriole Park.
With the victory, the Mariners took the series and finished 2-4 on their six-game East Coast road trip. The Orioles have lost seven of their past 11 and trail Cleveland by 1 1/2 games for the final Wild Card spot.
"When you can help the team win some games, it's a good feeling," Blanco said. "I wasn't expecting to hit a home run. I was trying to get a pitch to put the ball in play and see if something can happen. But I hit it pretty good."
Blanco, who has played for 11 teams over his 17-year career, had a game-winning grand slam in his Mariners' debut on June 15. He hit another grand slam Thursday against Boston, becoming the second oldest catcher to accomplish that feat behind Carlton Fisk.
Joe Saunders (10-10), who was traded to the Orioles last August for their playoff run, allowed base runners each inning but kept his former team 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. He allowed two runs and eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks in six innings.
Danny Farquhar picked up his second consecutive save with a scoreless ninth.
"This game is funny ... you go from an ultimate low to an ultimate high," Saunders said. "When Blanco gets that huge hit off Chen when he was cruising, it was a great comeback. It was one of the moments in the game where it was do-or-die. It bailed me out really."
Chen (6-4) allowed three runs and five hits with five strikeouts and three walks in seven innings. He has lasted seven or more innings in four of his past five starts.
"All I can say is Blanco swung the bat really well," Chen said. "That's the spot I wanted to attack and I threw the ball right on the spot and he still swings the bat really well and he hit a home run off me."
Danny Valencia, called up from Triple-A Norfolk before the game, went 2-for-4 with a homer and snapped an 0-for-23 skid that began June 17 with the big league club. Nick Markakis also picked up two hits for Baltimore.
The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the second when Michael Morse and Ibanez led off with back-to-back doubles. Baltimore had several opportunities to tie the score in the opening five innings, but Saunders managed to pitch out of the jam each time.
"Joe keeps his team in the game, doesn't give in to big innings," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We did a lot of good things. Had a couple balls we squared up that they caught, and they played real well defensively."
Valencia finally delivered with a two-run homer in the sixth that provided a 2-1 lead. The Mariners responded an inning later and retook the lead on Blanco's two-run shot.
"He's had some huge hits for us," said Mariners bench coach Robby Thompson, who is managing the team until Eric Wedge returns from a mild stroke. "The times that he is in there, he's produced. Once again, we'll have to watch how much we use him and keep him fresh. If we can get that from the backup catcher every third day, we'll be in great shape."
NOTES: RHP Stephen Pryor was shut down for the season after an MRI revealed further injury to his triceps, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. ...Wedge, who is still recovering from a mild stroke, will not be ready to return to the dugout when the team opens a six-game homestand on Monday. ... Orioles RHP Steve Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after being activated Friday from the 15-day disabled list. ... 3B Wilson Betemit will serve as the designated hitter for the Gulf Coast Orioles on Tuesday to begin his rehab assignment for an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament.

What to Read Next