BALTIMORE – The home runs don’t come often these days for 41-year-old Henry Blanco, and neither do starting assignments.
When they do, however, Seattle’s backup catcher often leaves a memorable impression.
Blanco hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning off Wei-Yin Chen, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 Sunday behind left-hander Joe Saunders.
Batting ninth in the lineup, Blanco sent an 0-2 pitch into the left-field seats to erase a 2-1 deficit. The 16-year veteran was playing in his 32nd game of the season, the 17th with Seattle after being signed as a free agent.
“If we could get that by the backup catcher every other day, every third day, we’ll be in good shape,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “He comes to play, he’s in great shape.”
Blanco has played for 11 different teams during a career that began in 1997. This was his third homer of the season; the other two were grand slams, including a game winner in his Mariners debut against Oakland on June 15.
Blanco’s batting .182, but he’s done his job quite capably.
“He’s had some huge hits for us,” Thompson said. “Huge home runs, a couple grand slams and a two-run there. The times that he’s in there, he’s produced.”
Blanco isn’t the only old-timer in the Seattle clubhouse. The Mariners’ other run Sunday came from 41-year-old Raul Ibanez, who hit an RBI double in the second inning.
“That’s a good thing,” Blanco said. “At this point, you just want to contribute to win games and hope for the best. Raul is a pretty good hitter, he’s always been, and I just get lucky.”
Saunders (10-10) worked out of trouble in almost every inning but improved to 7-0 lifetime against Baltimore after allowing two runs, eight hits and two walks in six innings.
He left the mound for the last time trailing 2-1, but Blanco’s blast made him a winner.
Saunders, who played a key role for the Orioles late last season, has five consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. In this one, he walked a tightrope through five innings and gave up a two-run drive to Danny Valencia in the sixth.
Baltimore went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight. The Orioles dropped two of three to the Mariners and went 4-5 on a homestand that began with three games apiece against Boston and Houston.
Yoervis Medina struck out four in two perfect innings and Danny Farquhar got three straight outs for his second save, both of which came within 24 hours.
Chen (6-4) gave up three runs and five hits over seven innings.