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Saunders’ Brilliance Wasted, M’s Fall In Extras

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Joe Saunders (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Joe Saunders (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Joe Saunders pitched seven superb innings. Jason Bay hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth.

After that, the Seattle Mariners fell apart.

Will Venable’s game-ending hit drove home Chris Denorfia from third to complete an improbable Padres comeback and secure a 3-2 victory in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

Saunders allowed one run, four hits and didn’t walk a batter in a start solid start that was wasted by a lack of run support and typically solid relievers that allowed victory to slip through Seattle’s fingers.

“It’s unbelievably frustrating,” Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “We have to find a way to play better.”

The Mariners haven’t played well of late. They’ve lost 10 of their last 12, a stretch where they’ve scored two runs or less five times.

“We have got to get the offense going,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “That’s what sticks with you during runs like this. We’re not scoring enough runs and we’re inconsistent. The guys have to step up.”

Bay certainly did. He led off the ninth inning with a home run off Padres closer Huston Street that barely cleared the left-field wall and gave Seattle a 2-1 lead in the ninth. Street has given up seven home runs in 20 1-3 innings this season.

But Kyle Blanks forced extras in the bottom of the inning with a one-out sacrifice fly off Mariners closer Tom Wilhemsen, who blew his second save in 13 tries by allowing just his second earned run in 23 innings.

“Tommy just didn’t have the command that we’ve seen him have in one-run games,” Wedge said. “They got to him.”

The Mariners couldn’t get much off Padres starter Eric Stults, who was dominant in his best start of the season. He struck out a career-high 12 batters, walked none and allowed one run on three hits in eight dominant innings before Street took him out of the decision.

The left-hander struck out hitters in bunches, including two stretches of four straight.

“I’m not really a strikeout guy,” Stults said. “I normally pitch to contact, but I felt like I could attack their aggressiveness and use all my pitches to get them out. I was able to throw off-speed pitches low in the zone, and I believed I could make them swing and miss with that game plan.”

Saunders continued his domination of the Padres. He has allowed just one run in his last 29 2-3 innings against them.

Chase Headley opened the scoring with a 403-foot solo home run to left field in the first inning.

Saunders kept the Padres off balance with a mix of pitches and a well-placed fastball, and pitched 6 1-3 shutout innings after Headley’s blast.

The Padres got to Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina (1-1) to win it in the 10th. Denorfia legged out an infield hit and advanced to third on Everth Cabrera’s seeing-eye bloop single near second base. Headley was intentionally walked before Venable’s big hit.

Luke Gregerson (3-2) pitched a scoreless 10th to earn the win.

“Our guys have played in games like this and have shown tremendous resolve,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “We’ve done it before and we did it tonight again by maintaining composure when something bad happens, like the Bay home run. We continued to battle and eventually came away with the win.”

NOTES: Padres C Yasmani Grandal didn’t shed much light on his use of performance-enhancing drugs on Wednesday in his first press conference with home media since testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone in November. He did say that he took an illegal substance in order to stay healthy, not to sustain an edge over the competition. He didn’t divulge further details about PED use, citing an open MLB investigation surrounding the issue. … Mariners OF Michael Morse remained in Seattle when the team left for Wednesday’s game at San Diego due to a quadriceps strain suffered on Tuesday. He was examined on Wednesday, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he believed Morse’s would gone 3-5 days and that he could catch up with the team during a weekend series at Minnesota. … 1B Justin Smoak, out since Saturday with a strained oblique muscle, took batting practice and pinch hit in the eighth inning. … Padres INF Logan Forsythe, on the 60-day disabled list with plantar fasciitis, moved his minor-league rehab assignment from extended spring training to Triple-A Tucson.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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