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KC@SEA: Saunders' back-to-back blast levels the score

SEATTLE -- The Mariners lost their eighth straight extra-inning game on Monday night, falling to the Royals, 6-5, in 12 innings front of the few remaining members of the announced crowd of 12,798 at Safeco Field. But they really thought they had this one won.

The Mariners appeared to win it in the 10th when Kyle Seager tagged at third and dashed for home on pinch-hitter Endy Chavez's fly off Wade Davis. But left fielder Alex Gordon rifled a throw to Salvador Perez, and the catcher made a diving tag. Home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza correctly called him out at the plate, sending the game to the 11th inning despite Seager's protestations.

"I saw Gordon take a couple steps back, so I went for it and it didn't go our way, I guess," Seager said.

In the 12th, Perez and Gordon did the damage again, with the catcher doubling with two outs to plate the outfielder with the go-ahead run. A strong throw from Michael Saunders prevented a second run from scoring, as he nailed Johnny Giavotella at the plate.

Although the Mariners rallied twice twice to force extra innings, they extended their club record of extra-inning losses to 15 on the season, while tying the club record of 21 games in bonus frames. It was the 237th extra-inning game of the year, tying the MLB record.

"It's just one of those deals where you talk about where we are, we've been so close so many times," manager Eric Wedge said. "You look at our extra-inning games, our one-run games, our two-run games. The downside to that is you've got youth out there gaining experience and learning it the hard way, a lot of kids learning on the job. But the upside is we're so close. I mean, you're one pitch, one play, one hit away."

Neither Franklin Gutierrez nor Saunders began Monday in the Mariners starting lineup. That didn't stop them from hitting back-to-back eighth-inning home runs to tie the game at 5. Gutierrez entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning, while Saunders was used in the seventh as a pinch-runner for Justin Smoak.

Sloppy fielding and four combined errors overshadowed a stellar duel between rookie pitchers Brandon Maurer and Yordano Ventura. The lead changed five times in a game in which the starters gave up only one earned run apiece.

Maurer has now gone eight straight starts without a win, dating back to April 30. After beginning the year in the Mariners rotation, the Mariners 2008 23rd-round Draft pick struggled and was sent to Triple-A Tacoma. He was recalled on July 27 to bolster the Seattle bullpen, and given his starting spot back in September when the club shut down fellow rookie Taijuan Walker.

"He has to understand the difference between the beginning and the middle of the game, and the beginning and the end of the game," Wedge said. "There's a reason why things were happening the way they were happening, but he can control that. He has that type of stuff, he has that type of ability and I think he's learning that more and more with each outing."

He didn't disappoint against the Royals, allowing just one earned run in seven innings pitched while striking out six. The 23-year-old allowed three straight singles with one out in the fourth to score one, and an errant throw by rookie outfielder Abraham Almonte brought home another.

Ventura stifled the Mariners early in his second Major League start. The 22-year-old began the year in Double-A, but has risen quickly through the Royals organization thanks to the same 100-mph fastball that held the Mariners to just one hit through his 5 2/3 innings.

But Royals manager Ned Yost had the rookie on an exceptionally short leash. With two outs in the sixth, Brad Miller drew a walk off Ventura, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A single by Almonte scored the shortstop, and a walk of Seager brought Ventura's night to a close after throwing six strikeouts to just two hits.

"Ventura, man, wow," Yost exclaimed after the game. "What an exhibition he put on out there. He and Wade Davis were sharp; everybody else wasn't real sharp tonight, but we got through it."

With the single, Almonte has now reached base safely in all 17 of his career Major League games with a plate appearance, and has a hit in 15 of them.

Seattle tied the game in the seventh when Kansas City center fielder Jarrod Dyson misplayed a fly ball from Mike Zunino, allowing Smoak to score from first and sending Zunino to third base. A single by Nick Franklin plated Zunino to give the home team a 3-2 lead.

Franklin's slap gives him a seven-game hitting streak, a welcome surge for the rookie second baseman. The 22-year-old Floridian excelled for Seattle early in the season and was one of the team's most productive hitters, batting .290 with a .823 OPS through his first 35 games. But a midseason slump dropped his average all the way down to .214 in mid-September.

The Royals retook the lead on what should have been a routine double play to end the eighth inning, but second baseman Franklin's throw ricocheted over first baseman Smoak's head, allowing Gordon to score from third. Kansas City would add another run off reliever Charlie Furbush on Perez's single before the frame was over.

While the Mariners would rally from that deficit, they once again showed the same inability to win extra-inning games that will contribute to their inability to play extra baseball in the playoffs.

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