A 4-3 winner over Cleveland Tuesday, the Mariners have a chance to win their third consecutive series Wednesday, a feat they haven’t accomplished since the 2003 season.
GAME: Indians (52-48, 2nd, AL Central, -3.5 GB) at Mariners (48-52, 3rd, AL West, -10.0 GB). GAME #: 101. SERIES: 3rd of 3 games. MEETING: 7th (Indians lead 4-2). WHEN: Wednesday, 12:40 p.m., Safeco Field. STREAKS: Mariners W 8; Indians L 2. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
When, after lengthy consideration, the Mariners elected to shorten the fences at Safeco Field last offseason, they obviously hoped to increase their home run production. But they could not have expected that the rise in long balls would be so dramatic. The Mariners have swatted 56 homers at Safeco this season, 1.1 per game, exactly their total in 81 home dates last year.
The Mariners have also homered in 16 of their past 17 home games. When the Mariners reached 16 in a row, they established a Safeco franchise record that stands in vivid contrast to the old mark, 11, during the 1999 season when mashers Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Jay Buhner populated the lineup.
In all, the Mariners have 122 home runs — second in the majors — so far vs. 149 all of last season, 11 coming from rookies Nick Franklin (7), Brad Miller (2) and Mike Zunino (2). Franklin has been a big leaguer for 47 games, Zunino for 28, Miller for 21. Only Minnesota (15) and White Sox (13) rookies have hit more than the 11 by the Seattle trio.
The increased pop in Seattle’s lineup, coincidentally or not, corresponds to the best stretch of the season for lefty Joe Saunders, who enters Wednesday’s game with the Cleveland Indians riding a four-game winning streak dating to July 2.
Saunders, who lost his first six road outings, is finally finding balance. He’s 5-3, 3.11 ERA in nine Safeco starts vs. 4-5, 5.26 away from Seattle. Overall, he has 12 quality starts.
Wednesday, he’ll oppose Scott Kazmir, who has pitched well lately. Across his last six starts, the lefty has a 2-0 record, a 1.95 ERA, 28 punchouts and 10 walks over 37.0 innings.
The Mariners, a 4-3 winner over Cleveland Tuesday night without the benefit of a home run, can extend their winning streak to a season-high nine games and sweep their third consecutive series after not sweeping any in their first 30. It would be a rare achievement.
The last time the Mariners posted three consecutive sweeps: May 27-June 5, 2003 at the expense of Kansas City (2 games), Minnesota (4) and Philadelphia (3). Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia and Gil Meche each posted two wins during those sweeps and Kazuhiro Sasaki had three saves.
MARINERS: LHP Joe Saunders (9-8, 4.28 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)
The 32-year-old Saunders, a Fairfax, VA., native in his ninth major league season and first with Seattle, will make his 21st start and second against Cleveland. After dropping a pair June 19 and June 25, Saunders has reeled off four consecutive victories, lowering his ERA from 4.80 to 4.24. In those four wins, Saunders allowed five earned runs while striking out 18 and walking six.
INDIANS: LHP Scott Kazmir (5-4, 4.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
The 29-year-old Kazmir, a Houston native in his ninth major league season and first with Cleveland, will make his 18th start and second against the Mariners. Kazmir, who joined the Indians this year after a long stretch with the L.A. Angels, rarely records a decision. He’s had two, both wins, in his past seven outings. He had his best start June 26 against Baltimore, holding the Orioles to one earned run in 7.0 innings.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
|7/24||Wed||vs. Clev||LHP Joe Saunders (9-8) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (5-4)|
|7/25||Thr||vs. Minn||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (9-4) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (7-6)|
|7/26||Fri||vs. Minn||RHP Felix Hernandez (11-4) vs. LHP Scott Diamond (5-9)|
|7/27||Sat||vs. Minn||RHP Aaron Harang (5-8) vs. RHP Samuel Deduno (5-4)|
|7/28||Sun||vs. Minn||RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-0) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (2-2)|