Saunders again the hero as Mariners rally
Outfielder's second consecutive go-ahead hit burns Red Sox
SEATTLE -- Saturday's winning formula worked so well that the Mariners used it again Sunday.
Michael Saunders provided the go-ahead runs, Seattle did most of its damage in an eighth-inning offensive outburst and the bullpen threw four innings of hitless relief in a 4-2 win against the Red Sox, taking the series finale in front of 40,001 at Safeco Field.
The victory gave the club back-to-back wins for the first time this month, coming on the back of Friday's dugout scuffle and loss.
"It's funny because it seems like when stuff happens that's a quote-unquote distraction, it makes us that much tighter," Milton Bradley said. "We have a good group already, so there's nothing that can really break that up. When there's a little tension, it makes us focus that much more."
That focus was evident in the eighth, when the first six batters tallied singles to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. With two on, Casey Kotchman bunted to Boston reliever Hideki Okajima, who hesitated before throwing to first, and Kotchman beat the throw to load the bases for Saunders.
For the second time in as many nights, Saunders came up big, slapping a 1-2 curveball through the right side for a two-run single that gave the Mariners a 3-2 lead.
They added another run a batter later, when Bradley dropped a surprise bunt hit down the first-base line, scoring Kotchman. He said that during film sessions, he noticed Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis' tendency to charge bunts and leave first base uncovered, and that's exactly how it played out.
In the four-game series, the Mariners scored 11 of their 16 total runs in the eighth and ninth innings, and they once again had the superior bullpen on Sunday. Chris Seddon provided hitless relief for the second time in as many days, throwing 2 2/3 innings.
"There were so many people involved in the game and -- like we talked about yesterday -- doing their jobs," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Seddon, I can't say enough about him. He came in and was aggressive. I think he was 8-for-8 on first-pitch strikes."
|"It's funny because it seems like when stuff happens that's a quote-unquote distraction, it makes us that much tighter. We have a good group already, so there's nothing that can really break that up. When there's a little tension, it makes us focus that much more."|
|-- Milton Bradley|
Starter Doug Fister didn't look like he'd regained his early-season form, but he limited the damage to two runs in the fourth on three hits and a walk. He faced a first-and-third, no-out jam in that inning, but escaped with a popup, a strikeout and a diving catch by shortstop Jack Wilson.
Fister left the game after the fifth. Before shoulder fatigue landed him on the disabled list in early June, Fister had gone seven innings or more in eight of 10 starts. Since then, he hasn't gone longer than six innings in six tries.
Seddon picked up the slack from there. In four appearances since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma, Seddon has allowed just one run and three hits in 8 1/3 innings. A starter for most of his time with the Rainiers, he said this weekend was the first time he'd thrown in back-to-back games.
"I'm a lot more comfortable than I was last time [he was called up], and a lot more confident, too," Seddon said. "That's one of the bigger parts of my game, my confidence."
And the Mariners seem to have more confidence as a whole, too, after the dugout fight between Chone Figgins and Wakamatsu that provoked a team meeting on Saturday. Since the dust-up, Figgins is 3-for-7 with two doubles, two walks, a run and an RBI, and Sunday marked the first time since May he's doubled in back-to-back games.
He also turned a difficult double play in the second, leaping over a sliding Youkilis before making his throw to first.
When asked if he felt Figgins was playing with renewed focus since the incident, Wakamatsu simply said: "He's playing good baseball right now."
To Saunders, there has been a clear shift in the team's mind-set.
"We've come together as a team a lot more -- not saying that we weren't in the first place," Saunders said. "Obviously, with the whole situation that happened, I think it brought us closer together. We're better for it, and we've all said it's a new season from here on out. What's in the past, we can't control. We're just trying to play good baseball from here on out for the rest of the year."
Mike McCall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.