The Mariners will go for their sixth straight win Monday night when they start a three-game series against the struggling Indians.
After opening its nine-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay last Monday, Seattle won the final two of that series, then swept a three-game series from Minnesota over the weekend.
The Mariners (58-64) have won 12 of 13 at home, with their pitching staff compiling a 2.08 ERA while holding opponents to a .200 batting average.
"I think you see it in the clubhouse, we're coming to the park expecting to win," Saunders told Seattle's official website. "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."
The sweep of the Twins also extended Seattle's winning streak against teams from the AL Central to eight games. Taking on the Indians (54-67) could help the Mariners continue that run since Cleveland has lost five straight, 18 of 22 and was swept by Oakland over the weekend, losing 7-0 Sunday.
Justin Masterson was knocked around for seven runs in 5 2-3 innings and the Indians had seven hits.
"You have to stay positive," manager Manny Acta said. "The guys are better than that. They are trying very hard. They need to relax. Its been going on for a while."
Looking to extend their winning streak, the Mariners hand the ball to Kevin Millwood (4-10, 4.28 ERA), who is going for his first win in four starts.
Millwood has received two runs of support over the previous three outings. He gave up two runs in seven innings of a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday while striking out a season-high eight.
"We've struggled to get that guy wins," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's pitched well for us this year. The bottom line is to put your team in a chance to win ballgames, and that's what he does."
The right-hander is 4-2 with a 4.74 ERA against Cleveland. He was pounded for seven runs and nine hits in four innings, but didn't factor in the decision of a 9-8 loss on April 17.
The Indians will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez (9-12, 5.62), who was hit hard his last time out.
Jimenez is 1-5 with an 8.83 ERA over his last seven starts. He gave up eight runs and eight hits, including two homers, in four innings of a 9-6 loss to Los Angeles last Tuesday.
"I don't even know (what happened)," Jimenez said. "It's been a really tough year, but I have to keep going, keep working."
The right-hander has won both his starts against the Mariners. He went six innings May 16, allowing three runs and five hits in a 9-3 victory.
The Indians are 4-1 against the Mariners this year and have won five of six in Seattle.
|August 13, 2012||Josh Tomlin||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|August 13, 2012||Jason Kipnis||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||Day-to-Day||Back soreness|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|June 30, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||60-Day DL||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|June 29, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||Day-to-Day||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|August 13, 2012||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Hip injury|
|August 13, 2012||Mike Carp||15-Day DL||Strained left groin muscle|
|August 06, 2012||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Left elbow contusion|
|July 18, 2012||Charlie Furbush||15-Day DL||Strained left triceps|
|July 18, 2012||Charlie Furbush||15-Day DL||Strained left triceps|
|July 01, 2012||Erasmo Ramirez||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
SEATTLE (AP) -- Michael Saunders is winning the small battles during his biggest week of the season.
Saunders hit a pair of two-run homers to help the Seattle Mariners win their sixth straight with a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
Saunders also hit a two-run homer on Sunday and now has a career-best 13 home runs. He has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats, including three home runs, after going 1 for 35 over his previous eight games.
Eric Thames also had a solo shot for the Mariners in the sixth and added a triple in the eighth.
The Mariners have won 13 of their last 14 games at Safeco Field, the best home stretch over 14 games in club history. They are 23-13 since the All-Star Break.
The Indians have lost six in a row.
"Baseball is a grind, it's a process," Saunders said. "I just have to believe in my process. The slump was longer than I hoped for but there's going to be ups and downs in this game."
In the third and with the Indians up 1-0, Saunders worked starter Ubaldo Jimenez to a 3-1 count.
"I was looking for the heater at that point," Saunders said. "He threw one middle away. When I was going bad, I was rolling over on that pitch. I needed to correct that."
He did, straightening it for a 411-foot shot to center and a 2-1 lead.
The Indians jumped back ahead with a two-run fifth. Casey Kotchman walked with one out then Ezequiel Carrera beat out a right-side bunt. With one out, Jason Kipnis singled to left, scoring Kotchman from second. Asdrubal Cabrera then singled to center, scoring Carrera from second for a 3-2 lead.
Thames tied it in the sixth with his two-out, 425-foot blast into the right-center seats. It was his fifth of the season.
Then Saunders faced another inside battle with reliever Tony Sipp in the seventh. With a runner on first, Saunders found himself in a 2-2 count.
"I haven't had too much success in my career against Sipp," Saunders said. "Typically, he's gotten me out with those sliders."
Saunders had been 0 for 5 in his career against Sipp with three strikeouts.
"He ended up hanging one (slider) tonight," Saunders said. "I tried not to do too much, just put a good swing on it."
That one traveled deep into the right-center seats for his third career two-homer game.
Saunders finished with three hits in four at-bats.
"The first two balls Saunders hit was hard-hit balls, one was 2-0 count up the middle and the other 3-1 count," Jimenez said of the single and home run he gave up to Saunders. "You don't want to put yourself in those spots. That is where hitters really have the advantage and let it fly."
Charlie Furbush (5-2) earned the victory in relief of starter Kevin Millwood .
Tom Wilhelmsen worked the ninth and had trouble closing. Kotchman singled with one out and Carrera doubled to right, with Kotchman taking third. Pinch hitter Jack Hannahan drew a walk to load the bases, which didn't really bother Wilhelmsen. It set up the double play.
"That's the idea," Wilhelmsen said.
He added that he left a pitch up to the next batter, Kipnis.
"I was lucky he got on top of it," he said. "And we got the double play."
Kipnis bounced the ball to second and it was turned quickly into a game-ending double play. Wilhelmsen picked up his 18th save in 20 opportunities.
Joe Smith (7-4) took the loss.
Kipnis, who had two RBIs, had started the game for the Indians with a shot off the right field foul pole. It was his 12th home run and first career leadoff homer.
Notes: Felix Hernandez , who threw the 23rd perfect game in Major League history last Wednesday, was named the American League Player of the Week. He is the first Mariners pitcher to win the award since Joel Pineiro on May 7, 2006. Hernandez starts Tuesday night against Cleveland. ... Mariners Trayvon Robinson had 10 outfield putouts, most in club history for a left-fielder. ... The Indians staff has given up 59 unearned runs this season, second most in the majors. Of those, 21 have come over the past 14 games.