09/11/12 7:05 PM ET
Saunders' splits defy conventional wisdom
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Going into Tuesday's opening game of the Blue Jays series, Saunders was batting .275 (41-for-149) against lefties compared to .233 (67-for-287) against righties. That reverse split of .042 is the second-highest in the Majors this year, behind only the Rangers' David Murphy, who is hitting .381 against lefties and .301 against right-handers.
Saunders said he had no real answer for his same-handed success, but figures it's all part of his new-found comfort and aggressiveness this year.
"It could be numerous factors," he said. "They could be hanging offspeed to me and leaving it up over the plate. Righty-on-lefty changeups are really good pitches, and typically you don't see many lefty-on-lefty changeups. Righty starters usually have about four pitches, where lefty starters maybe only have two pitches against lefties.
"I don't really know what it is, but I certainly do feel confident when I'm up there against lefties and don't feel like I'm at a disadvantage. And confidence is a big part of this game."
Manager Eric Wedge said Saunders' success has been important for a Mariners offense that is left-handed heavy.
"It does help when you put a lineup together, because he's a guy who can help you win so many different ways," Wedge said. "He doesn't give in [against left-handers]. He doesn't give ground. And I think he'll continue to get better with it. He's without doubt still improving. I'm just glad to have him back in the lineup."
Thames returns to Rogers Centre
TORONTO -- Mariners right fielder Eric Thames said Tuesday he was enjoying his first trip back to Rogers Centre since being traded by the Blue Jays six weeks earlier, but wanted to make one thing clear.
"I remember my first at-bat here and the fans and team and stuff like that," said the 25-year-old Thames. "But I'm not getting caught up in that. That was fun, but now this is a new chapter in my career. Safeco is home for me now."
Thames was drafted by the Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Pepperdine and was checking in with old friends before Tuesday's opening game of the Mariners' three-game series.
"It was fun seeing people at the gate, and the doormen and ushers I knew," Thames said. "But I'd never been in this [visitors'] clubhouse before, and I had no idea how the setup was on this side. It's weird, but it's cool at the same time."
Thames, who started in right field on Tuesday, hit .274 with 11 home runs in 77 games at Rogers Centre while with the Blue Jays. One of those homers came earlier this season off Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
"You can see the ball pretty well here, and it flies most of the time," he said. "It's a good hitting park."
But 33 games into his Mariners career, Thames isn't looking back. He said the past six weeks seem far longer in retrospect.
"Just looking at the whole year, the season seems really long, emotionally, and with all the training and stuff," he said. "But I feel like I know these guys pretty well here. It's almost like I came up with these guys. That just shows how much they've welcomed me in. It's been good."
Millwood, Wedge recall 9/11 experiences
TORONTO -- Like all Major League clubs, the Mariners wore a special hat on Tuesday with a United States flag on the left side to commemorate the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Most of the young Mariners were still in school in 2001, but veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood was in his fifth season with the Atlanta Braves and recalls how life, including Major League Baseball, stopped as the nation watched in horror.
"I was home in Atlanta when it all happened," said the 37-year-old Millwood. "The neighbor across the street called and I turned on the TV. And [Braves manager] Bobby [Cox] called a little later and said the game was off. Then it was about a week we sat around, which was the right thing to do, without a doubt.
"When we started back up, we were in New York, so that was tough," he said. "The whole city was just different. You always expect New York to be bustling, high energy, and it was nothing even close to that, and it was totally understandable."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was in Buffalo, having just finished up his season as skipper of the Indians' Triple-A club and preparing to fly to Cleveland when the terrorist attacks occurred.
"I was getting ready to join the big league club for September," Wedge said. "Of course, everything was off track after that. I ended up staying in Buffalo for a week and joining the club when things started back up.
"Everybody's life changed in one moment's time," said Wedge. "Nobody will ever forget that day or where they were, or just how personal it was to them."
• Going into Tuesday's series opener with Toronto, the Mariners had scored first in 81 of their 141 games this season. The Angels (85) are the only Major League club to score first more often. Seattle is 52-29 (.642) when scoring first.
• Seattle's bullpen had a string of 17 scoreless innings snapped in Saturday's loss to the A's, but has still allowed just two runs over its past 20 innings. Mariners relievers rank second in the Majors with a 1.16 ERA in the month of September.