August 1, 2012 in Sports

Thames’ long homer keys M’s seventh straight win

Seattle Times
Associated Press photo

Seattle’s Eric Thames watches his two-run homer in the fifth inning Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE - Eric Thames hasn’t been around the Seattle Mariners long enough to hear about Safeco Field, the marine air around it or how playing in this city will suppress a guy’s home-run swing.

Instead, he merely stepped into the box for his second Mariners at-bat Wednesday night, uncorked his massive forearms and let the baseball do the talking.

That ball traveled an estimated 411 feet over the center-field wall in towering fashion, sparking Seattle’s 5-3 comeback victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was ultimately a John Jaso single in the sixth inning that put Seattle in front to stay. But it was the tying, two-run homer in the fifth inning by Thames, off Toronto starter Carlos Villanueva, that everybody was buzzing about.

The Mariners won for the seventh consecutive time - and for the 10th time in 12 games - on a night when it looked like they were being overwhelmed by the opposing pitcher.

A crowd of 22,537 fans at Safeco Field - thousands of them once again rooting for the visiting Blue Jays - saw Villanueva cruise through the first four innings, allowing just two singles.

Toronto had taken a 3-1 lead on the strength of solo home runs by Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson off Seattle starter Blake Beavan. The Blue Jays had a chance to do more damage in the top of the fifth, after a sacrifice fly scored David Cooper to make it a two-run game.

The Blue Jays had runners on first and second with two out and Rasmus - 2 for 2 at that point - up at the plate. That’s when trail runner Anthony Gose - recently promoted from Class AAA - broke for second on a steal attempt, only to see lead runner Rajai Davis stay put.

Gose’s mistake wound up getting Davis caught in a rundown, where he was tagged out to end the inning. And the visitors were never really the same.

Villanueva had entered the night with a 6-0 record and 2.92 earned-run average since being called up from AAA in June. But the Mariners got to him in the fifth when Casper Wells hit a one-out single - Seattle’s third hit of the game - and then Thames stepped up.

Thames had spent much of last season and part of this one with the Blue Jays before his Monday night trade to Seattle for pitcher Steve Delabar. This was his first Mariners start and he made a nice catch of a line drive to left field in the third inning.

But his inaugural Mariners performance will be remembered for the Villanueva pitch he crushed after the Wells single. All of a sudden, a Mariners team that seemed out of it most of the night was back in the game and the momentum didn’t stop.

Michael Saunders kept it going in the sixth with a one-out double ripped off the right-field wall. Saunders took third on a ground out and then scored on Jaso’s single to center to give Seattle a 4-3 lead.

Villanueva left after the inning was done, having notched an impressive six strikeouts while allowing no walks.

The Mariners added an insurance run in the seventh as Brendan Ryan hit a ground-rule double to center with two outs off reliever Aaron Loup. Dustin Ackley then blooped a single to left to put Seattle ahead by a pair.

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