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MIN@SEA: Saunders cranks a two-run blast to right

SEATTLE -- The Mariners seemingly couldn't win at home during the first half of the season, looking lost and confused at the plate. My, how the times have changed.

With a 5-1 win over the Twins on Sunday, the Mariners completed their American-League leading third sweep since the All-Star break. They are 5-1 on the current homestand, and have won 12 of their last 13 at Safeco Field.

"We're starting to swing the bats, especially here at Safeco," Michael Saunders said. "There was a lot of talk that we can't, we had trouble hitting here at the beginning of the year. I feel like we were putting way too much pressure on ourselves at home. I just feel like we're playing good baseball right now."

During the recent success in Seattle, the Mariners have won in nearly every fashion imaginable: walk-offs, perfect games and blowouts. On Sunday, the Mariners broke a close game open late to take a grip on a tense game.

Carrying a 2-1 lead for most of the game, Dustin Ackley led off the seventh with a double -- his second hit of the game -- and Saunders followed with his career-high 11th home run, a towering shot into the seats in right field.

"I love the way he fights through ABs, and he's a complete player," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge of Saunders. "He can help you win in so many different ways -- whether it be at home plate, in the outfield or on the basepaths. Strong, as you saw today, he really got after that. I've been very pleased with what we've seen from him, he's just scratching the surface."

Eric Thames further distanced the Mariners when he doubled home John Jaso later in the inning to push the lead to 5-1. It was part of a three-hit game for Thames, his first since April 27 while he was with the Blue Jays.

The big lead protected a win for starter Blake Beavan (8-7), who wasn't his sharpest, but made it a habit to work out of jams. The second was the only inning in which the Twins were able to push a run across, but even then Beavan was able to avoid a bigger mess.

Beavan gave up a leadoff double to Josh Willingham -- a ball that came inches from clearing the left-field fence -- in the second. Willingham moved to third on a groundout and then scored on a sacrifice fly to left off the bat of Trevor Plouffe to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

But further damage was prevented, even after Beavan gave up another base hit, as he escaped the inning without allowing any more runs by striking out Pedro Florimon.

"He's executing pitches in more key situations," said Wedge of Beavan. "His misses are better. When he's not throwing the ball where he wants to, he's missing in better spots and that's a big component of it, as well."

Beavan allowed just the run, as he scattered seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. With the help of Carter Capps, Oliver Perez and Josh Kinney -- who went 2 1/3 innings for his first Major League save -- out of the bullpen, the Mariners extinguished any hope for the Twins.

"A bad series here. We scored six runs in three days. That's not good enough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They pitched well, but we sure missed out on a lot of opportunities. I think 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position today is not good enough. And we went 2-for-11 yesterday. We missed plenty of opportunities. We had people out there who couldn't drive anybody in."

The Mariners capitalized on Twins starter Samuel Deduno's inability to find the plate in the third to jump in front for the first time. Seattle used a single and two walks to load the bases, and then Jaso drew the third walk of the inning to force a run home.

Jesus Montero followed by bouncing into a double play, but the lead run crossed to give the Mariners a 2-1 advantage that they wouldn't relinquish.

The Mariners close out the current nine-game homestand with a three-game set against the Indians starting on Monday. If anything's changed at Safeco since the start of the season, it's an expectation to succeed.

"I think you see it in the clubhouse, we're coming to the park expecting to win," Saunders said. "We're having a lot of fun doing it. Even our games that we lose, our heads are still held high, we're able to come back the next day and continue to expect to win."

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