The left-hander looks to improve to 10-0 in his career at Safeco Field and help the Seattle Mariners end a six-game losing streak Friday night when he faces a Rangers team that has fared well against southpaws.
Saunders (3-4, 5.64 ERA) is 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA in four home starts and 0-4 with an 11.25 ERA in five on the road.
"This is just kind of a fluky thing," said Saunders after allowing four runs over 5 1-3 innings and not receiving a decision in Saturday's 5-4 defeat at Cleveland.
Saunders owns a 1.72 career ERA at Safeco Field in 13 outings, with the first nine coming as a visitor.
The Rangers (30-17) are 11-5 when facing left-handed starters. Saunders is 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA in six career home starts against them and 0-7 with a 9.91 ERA in seven on the road in the regular season.
Saunders also earned a 5-1 win at Texas last year for Baltimore in the AL wild-card playoff game. This season, he gave up one unearned run over seven innings in a 3-1 home loss April 13 before allowing seven over 4 2-3 six days later in a 7-0 road defeat.
Texas will see a lefty starter for the first time in 12 games, and Jeff Baker is expected to be in the lineup as a result. The infielder, who bats .344 against left-handers and homered off Saunders earlier this year, started against a right-hander for the first time Wednesday in a 3-1 victory at Oakland.
"That's part of baseball and the way it works sometimes," Baker told the Rangers' official website. "Sometimes it rains lefties and sometimes it doesn't."
These clubs split four games at Safeco in April before the Rangers outscored the Mariners 23-3 in a three-game home sweep.
Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski, activated off the disabled list Tuesday, is 7 for 19 with two homers and five RBIs in the season series. Kyle Seager is 11 for 26 with five RBIs for Seattle (20-27).
Seager is 2 for 6 this year against Texas rookie Justin Grimm (3-3, 4.02), who faces the Mariners again after going 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two 2013 starts against them.
"It means they've seen me twice and I've seen them a couple of times," the right-hander said. "At the end of the day, it's about attacking hitters, being aggressive and executing pitches."
Grimm owns a 5.14 road ERA as opposed to 2.79 at home.
Mariners veterans initiated a closed-door clubhouse meeting after Wednesday's 7-1 loss to the Angels on the heels of a 12-0 defeat the day before."We just felt that it was a good time for it. It was a necessary thing to do," said outfielder Raul Ibanez , who is 3 for 20 against Texas. "It's important to remember all the good stuff that's happened with us."
|May 18, 2013||Ian Kinsler||15-Day DL||Right intercostal strain|
|May 16, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right biceps tendinitis|
|May 06, 2013||A.J. Pierzynski||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|May 06, 2013||A.J. Pierzynski||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|April 20, 2013||Nick Tepesch||Day-to-Day||Left game - right arm bruise|
|April 11, 2013||Justin Miller||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|May 16, 2013||Aaron Harang||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|April 23, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 22, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||Day-to-Day||Torn right hamstring|
|April 15, 2013||Stephen Pryor||60-Day DL||Torn right lat muscle|
|April 12, 2013||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Fractured finger|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
SEATTLE (AP) -- Lance Berkman found his home run stroke from the right side of the plate. Justin Grimm struggled early only to rebound and turn in another quality start.
The Texas Rangers had a little of everything go in their favor Friday night, even a double play that shouldn't have been.
Jeff Baker hit a two-run homer and Berkman added a three-run shot, both off Seattle starter Joe Saunders , and the Rangers beat the Mariners 9-5.
Baker's shot in the second inning gave the Rangers the lead, but it was Berkman's fourth homer of the season into the left-field seats that broke the game open in the third and sent Saunders to his first career loss at Safeco Field. It was the first homer for Baker since May 10 and first for Berkman since May 11.
"We got him into some counts where he had to throw a strike and we didn't miss it," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "The big blow was the one Berkman got. We just kept battling him and battling him and got it done."
Grimm (4-3) overcame a rough first few innings to pitch into the seventh despite giving up 10 hits. Grimm avoided a big inning, didn't walk a batter and struck out five in beating the Mariners for the second time this season.
Joe Nathan got his 15th save of the season getting Michael Morse for the final out of the game after Seattle scored twice and had two runners on in the ninth.
Grimm wasn't at his best early in the game as Seattle battered him for eight hits in the first 2 2-3 innings with relievers warming in the Rangers bullpen. But Grimm managed to limit any major damage - helped by a blown call by first base umpire Jeff Nelson in the second - before settling down and retiring seven straight batters at one point.
Seattle's chance at a big second inning took a hit with a botched call by Nelson. Jesus Sucre hit a grounder to Mitch Moreland at first, who threw down to second to get the lead runner. The relay from Elvis Andrus back to first was in time to get Sucre but the throw was caught by Grimm running over to cover and not Moreland, whose foot was on the bag. Nelson missed that it was Grimm who caught the throw and called Sucre out.
"That happened so fast. I didn't realize the umpire had called him out at first," Grimm said. "... I was going over to cover the bag and Mitch took it on his own so when Elvis threw the ball it started to come toward me. I didn't think Mitch was going to be able to get to it and I just snagged it up real quick in hopes to save a run and keep the double play in order."
Seattle manager Eric Wedge went out to argue, but his argument was that Moreland had pulled his foot off the bag. He didn't realize until watching the replay later that it was Grimm who caught the throw and it never reached Moreland's glove.
"It would have been a much bigger argument if I had known that at the time," Wedge said.
Some of the furor stopped when Brendan Ryan followed with a two-out RBI double to tie the game at 2 and was further muted by what the Rangers did against Saunders and Seattle's bullpen.
Still, the Rangers realized they got lucky.
"I didn't have to see the replay," Washington said. "I knew we caught a break there."
Saunders (3-5) entered the night 9-0 at Safeco Field, including a 3-0 mark with a 0.94 ERA this season. But Saunders gave up six earned runs and eight hits in just five innings and the Mariners lost their seventh straight.
Saunders' problems started when he walked Nelson Cruz on a 3-2 pitch in the second inning and gave up Baker's opposite-field homer two batters later to give Texas a 2-1 lead. He immediately faced problems in the third giving up a leadoff single to Jurickson Profar and a one-out double to Moreland. After striking out Berkman looking in the first inning, Saunders got just one pitch into the at-bat his next time up. Berkman drove the first pitch out to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead.
Texas scored three more times in the seventh against Seattle's bullpen, capped by David Murphy 's two-out, two-run single.
Notes: Seattle's been outscored 28-6 in the last three games. ... Texas announced after the game that Martin Perez will be called up to start the first game of Monday's day-night doubleheader at Arizona with Yu Darvish likely going in the nightcap. .... Raul Ibanez 's had an RBI double in the third inning. It was the 400th double of his career. ... Injured Texas RHP Alexi Ogando (biceps tendinitis) will throw a bullpen session between games of the Rangers' doubleheader on Monday in Arizona. He'll be reassessed after the bullpen and could come off the disabled list next weekend.