7/21/2013 1:56 P.M. ET
Zunino providing stability behind the plate
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Five weeks into his Major League tenure, rookie catcher Mike Zunino is already establishing himself as a quality backstop, and the proof is in the confidence pitchers have in his ability to block balls in the dirt.
Hisashi Iwakuma throws one of the toughest splitters in the game and used that pitch several times even with runners in scoring position at third base in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Astros.
"He's a big help behind the plate," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. "You have a lot of confidence in him, and that gives you a lot of confidence to be able to bounce those split fingers and those sliders in front of the plate. That helps a lot to get these guys out."
Zunino, 22, works on that part of his craft constantly and is athletic enough to back up his work ethic with excellent footwork and good hands.
"We can't shy away from throwing his best pitch sometimes," Zunino said. "That's what we need. With the split, you aren't going to know exactly where it's going, but you just have to have trust in yourself and trust in him and center up the baseball when you block it."
Manager Eric Wedge, a former catcher, loves hearing about his pitchers' faith in the youngster.
"It's huge," Wedge said. "It's more of a team thing than anything because you're talking about a difference maker in the game. Look at some of the situations [Iwakuma was in Saturday], second and third with nobody out or a runner at third with one out and having to get those strikeouts. You know he's going to go to his splitty to do that. So for him to have that type of confidence in a young catcher, that's a big deal."
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen is another who is learning to trust the youngster.
"It's very important," Wilhelmsen said. "You don't want to be afraid to throw anything. It just gives you more confidence and more authority to throw that curveball in the dirt."
Mariners a one-hit wonder with rare win
HOUSTON -- The Mariners went where few Major League teams have gone when they beat the Astros, 4-2, on Saturday night despite managing just one hit.
Dating back to 1900, it was just the fourth game in history when a team scored four or more runs on one or no hits. All three previous games involved the White Sox, the last one coming in 1990 when Chicago scored four runs while getting no-hit. The other two were in 1909 and 1914.
Prior to Saturday's game, the last time a team scored four runs on just one hit, without the benefit of an error, was April 30, 1914 when the White Sox lost, 5-4, to the Tigers.
The Mariners have now won three games in the last 25 seasons in which they've had one or no hits, tied with the White Sox for the most such wins in baseball.
The Astros' Erik Bedard became just the 10th pitcher since 1900 to lose a game in which he pitched at least six innings and didn't allow a hit.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he understood why Astros skipper Bo Porter took Bedard out after the veteran lefty said afterward that he didn't want to stay in the game any longer after reaching 109 pitches without a hit in 6 1/3 innings.
"Bo went out there and gave him every opportunity to stay in the game," said Wedge, who managed Bedard two years ago in Seattle. "If the guy says he doesn't want to stay in the game, what are you going to do? You take him out of the game. Bo did it the right way. If the guy says he's done, you can't leave him in there and put him in a position to fail. He didn't have a choice."
Wedge not expecting any Trade Deadline deals
HOUSTON -- With his team riding a five-game winning streak going into Sunday's series finale with the Astros and a young nucleus of players beginning to produce offensively, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he's not anticipating or pushing for any deals before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
The Mariners have several veterans on one-year deals who could be valued on the market, including lefty reliever Oliver Perez, outfielder Raul Ibanez, first baseman Kendrys Morales, shortstop Brendan Ryan and lefty starter Joe Saunders, but general manager Jack Zduriencik has said he's not aggressively seeking trades and Wedge is in agreement.
"Jack and I have already talked about this," Wedge said. "Unless it's something that raises the bar, I don't think we're going to do anything. We're not going to move somebody just to move somebody.
"Unless it's something we feel like, again, it raises the bar -- which depending on the team and their situation, it can happen; you don't ever count on that happening. If not, we stand pat. We've got a good group of guys out there. It's fun to watch them come to the ballpark every day right now."
Saunders in right place, right time in big win
HOUSTON -- Michael Saunders started Saturday's game in center field for the Mariners, but the team's best outfielder moved to right in the seventh inning after Dustin Ackley pinch-hit for Jason Bay and then took over in center.
The move paid off in aces for manager Eric Wedge when Saunders made an outstanding running catch of a leadoff line drive into the right-center gap in the ninth inning by Justin Maxwell that helped closer Tom Wilhelmsen finish off a 4-2 win.
"It paid off," Wedge said. "Putting Ackley in center and Saundo in right was big for us. I like Michael in all three spots, but in right field he arguably helps us as much as anything, just because there's so much more ground and you're trying to keep runners from going to first and third and you've got a lot more going on out there than most people realize."
Ackley made the game-ending catch, but it was Saunders who hauled in a ball that looked like trouble from the moment it was crushed by Maxwell.
"Off the bat I thought it was in the gap," Saunders said. "Being a righty, the ball kind of tailed back toward me a little bit and I was able to run it down."
Wilhelmsen appreciated it more than anyone as he went on to record his second save in as many nights against the Astros.
"That was the play of the day," said Wilhelmsen. "He closed down on that sucker so fast. That ball was smoked. I was like 'Holy cow.' He was full extension. Incredible catch."
• Kyle Seager had his 15-game hit streak snapped Saturday, one shy of his career high set earlier this year. But the young third baseman became the fourth player in club history with multiple hitting streaks of 15 or more games in one season, joining Ichiro Suzuki (five times), Adrian Beltre (2006) and Joey Cora (1998).
• Jesus Montero went 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI in Triple-A Tacoma's 11-5 win at Fresno on Saturday while playing first base. Franklin Gutierrez was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run as he resumed his third rehab stint with the Rainiers.