8/3/2014 1:50 P.M. ET
Bullpen displays improvement after Paxton's return
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Perhaps the biggest surprise on this year's Mariners team is a bullpen that has gone from one of the worst in the American League in 2013 to the best in baseball, and that trend continued in Saturday's 6-3 win over the Orioles.
Although starter James Paxton lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his first outing off the disabled list, five relievers came in and allowed just one run over the final 4 2/3 frames to slam the door on a potent Baltimore lineup and lower its MLB-leading ERA to 2.37.
"When you go to your bullpen in the fourth to sixth inning, it's awfully hard to win ballgames, and I think the numbers will bear me out on that," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "But when you have a bullpen as good as ours, you feel pretty confident with a lead. But you never feel real good in this ballpark with that lineup over there, because the ball flies in this park and they've got some dangerous hitters over there."
Rookie right-hander Dominic Leone, who picked up the win after throwing 1 2/3 perfect innings after replacing Paxton, said his group is just working together to do its job no matter when they're called on after Brandon Maurer, Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush and Fernando Rodney all contributed.
"Maurer has been pitching strong as of late, I'm trying to get back in my groove, obviously Rodney has been doing it all year," said Leone. "Charlie, Medina, everybody, it's just what we do. We like going out there and picking each other up."
Leone, who improved to 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA, said there was a little extra emphasis in keeping the ball down when pitching in Camden Yards.
"The more you leave up, the more those guys can turn those mistakes into runs pretty quickly," Leone said. "The biggest thing for us as a staff is we've been doing really well at executing the low pitch, whether it's burying sliders or whatnot in the dirt and having these guys swing over the top. ... They're used to putting the ball in play and scoring runs via the long ball, which they're pretty good at doing."
McClendon went with his All-Star closer for the ninth inning, even with a four-run lead. Rodney gave up three hits and a run in the non-save situation, but he eventually slammed the door. And McClendon wasn't worried about using the AL saves co-leader with a four-run cushion.
"I thought he was the best guy to get us out of the ninth inning and as it turned out, I was right," McClendon said. "Three, four-run lead, I don't take anything for granted. I love for him to get his saves, but I also love for me to get my wins."
Jackson makes first post-Deadline impression
BALTIMORE -- It took Austin Jackson a day to get his feet under him, but the Mariners' new leadoff hitter made his mark in Saturday's 6-3 victory over the Orioles as he reached base three times and scored a pair of runs.
The Mariners didn't add a big bopper at Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they did pick up a quality center fielder in Jackson, who helped the a potent Tigers club for the last several years and now intends to do the same in Seattle.
The Mariners know a player like Jackson can affect a lot of things.
"If we get a guy like Austin Jackson on the bases, it's going to be a good thing," said Dustin Ackley, who has been hitting behind the fleet 27-year-old in the lineup. "You're going to see good pitches because he's a threat on the bases. It just helps all around."
Ackley and Jackson got on base a combined six times and scored five runs on Saturday.
"That's how you win games, when guys get on base at the top of the lineup," said Robinson Cano. "It's a chance for not only me, but you've got [Kendrys] Morales and [Kyle] Seager. It's a chance for us to win games, and I think they understand that."
Cano feels the addition of Jackson, Morales and Chris Denorfia will pay dividends down the stretch.
"Denorfia can hit. He's a gamer. I like him," Cano said. "And you have Jackson, another righty. So we don't have to have eight lefties in the lineup and one righty any more. I think we're better now."
Manager Lloyd McClendon was Jackson's hitting coach in Detroit the previous four years, and he feels the center fielder is just entering his prime at 27.
"I think he's at a point now where he's close to being that complete two-way player that is going to hit .300, 15 home runs, score 100 [runs] and drive in 70 out of the leadoff spot," McClendon said. "And that's a pretty good leadoff hitter. It's just a matter of doing it consistently. That's the next step for him, just to be that consistent player every year."
Saunders not yet ready to begin rehab stint
BALTIMORE -- Though there was some hope that Michael Saunders would be ready to go out on a Minor League rehab stint by this weekend, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said that projection proved too optimistic and his right fielder will continue working with the team this coming week at Safeco Field.
Saunders took the day off from hitting and throwing on Sunday, and he will have another day of rest Monday on the team's off-day, then test his strained left oblique muscle on Tuesday when the club opens a nine-game homestand.
Saunders has missed three and a half weeks, and he will likely need a week or more of Minor League games to regain his timing once he is cleared to play.
"We'll see what happens Tuesday and go from there," McClendon said Sunday. "We're getting close. My hope is later in the week to have him go out and start DHing. We'll see how it goes."
Throwing continues to be the toughest thing for the 27-year-old outfielder.
"I think that's the last thing to come," McClendon said. "He's throwing controlled right now. He needs to take a full outfield with different angles -- to the line, in the gap, throw to the bases, spin and turn and throw. We'll find out."
• Three Mariners players went into Sunday's game ranked in the top 10 in AL batting averages since July 1. Ackley is second at .372, Cano has hit .359 and Jackson .345 in that five-week span.
• After another scoreless inning of relief on Saturday, Maurer lowered his ERA to 0.50 since he rejoined the Mariners in a bullpen role. Maurer has allowed one run in 18 innings with 22 strikeouts.