Safeco Field will be a welcome sight for the Mariners -- and left-hander Joe Saunders -- when they return home Friday to host the division-leading Rangers for a three-game set.
Saunders will take the hill in the series opener, as Seattle kicks off its brief five-game homestand fresh off a disappointing nine-game road trip. The Mariners lost their sixth straight game on Wednesday against the Angels, 7-1, to fall to 2-7 on the road swing. Seattle has been outscored 46-16 during its longest losing skid of the season.
Saunders has epitomized Seattle's road woes this season, going 0-4 with an 11.25 ERA in five outings away from Safeco. Yet at home, the southpaw has been lights-out to the tune of a 3-0 record and microscopic 0.94 ERA in four starts.
"It's just a fluky thing," Saunders said. "I was hoping to squash all the nonsense about the home and road stuff, so it's just a matter of staying positive and making pitches. That's all you can do. Whatever happens is going to happen."
While Saunders looks to continue his home success, the Rangers will counter with 24-year-old rookie Justin Grimm.
Grimm is no stranger to the Mariners, having faced Seattle in each of his first two starts this season. The righty limited the Mariners to two runs over four innings in his season debut on April 11, then again allowed two runs (one earned) over six frames in an April 21 win.
"I don't think that's good or bad," Grimm said. "It means they've seen me twice and I've seen them a couple of times. At the end of the day, it's about attacking hitters, being aggressive and executing pitches."
That is exactly what Grimm did on Saturday against the Tigers, working 6 2/3 strong innings while snapping a three-start losing streak. Grimm yielded just two runs, and improved to 3-3 on the season.
"Coming off a good start, I'm just looking to get a win and keep this team rolling," Grimm said.
Rangers: Baker eager to see a lefty
With the Rangers finally facing a left-handed starter after 10 straight games against righties, utility man Jeff Baker is expected to be in the starting lineup for a second straight game.
Baker, on Wednesday, made his first start since May 11, and went 1-for-3, as manager Ron Washington used him to give Mitch Moreland a break at first base. It marked Baker's first start against a right-hander this season after each of his first 13 came against southpaws.
"That's part of baseball and the way it works sometimes," Baker said of the recent southpaw drought. "Sometimes it rains lefties and sometimes it doesn't. You do your preparation and hope it translates over, but nothing can replicate live pitching. That's why we have Spring Training and play all the games we play. Seeing live pitching makes a difference."
Baker is hitting .344 (11-for-32) with four home runs and six RBIs against lefties compared to .286 (4-for-14) with no homers and one RBI against righties.
Mariners: Saunders struggling offensively
Michael Saunders went 1-for-4 on Wednesday to complete a road trip in which the outfielder hit just .139 (5-for-36). Saunders entered the road swing hitting .286 but has seen his average fall to .236.
Manager Eric Wedge dropped Saunders from the leadoff spot into the No. 2 hole for Wednesday's game, and believes the outfielder has been trying to do too much at the plate recently.
"I think he's expanded the zone a little from time to time," Wedge said. "When he stays within his zone, he does damage. I think he's just expanded his zone, trying to do a little too much. We're at our best when these guys are willing and able to set the bat down and take a walk and let the next guy get a shot at it. When they try to do too much or get a little greedy up there, that's when you get in trouble."
• Joe Saunders is 3-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 13 career starts against the Rangers. His ERA is the fourth highest by any active pitcher with at least 10 starts against Texas.
• The Rangers are 22-5 this season when allowing three or fewer runs.