Over the last few weeks, Mariners veteran Joe Saunders has gone to great lengths to erase his early-season reputation as a pitcher who shined at Safeco Field, but struggled on the road. At his home park on Tuesday, he'll take on the feisty Pirates and their talented upstart left-hander, Jeff Locke, in the first of a brief two-game Interleague series.
The Pirates have won four straight and five of their last six, while the Mariners have lost three of five. After each pulled off extra-innings wins on Sunday, both teams are off Monday.
Saunders has a 1.81 ERA over his last five starts, including three on the road, while establishing himself as a consistent third starter behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the Mariners' rotation. Saunders wound up a with a tough 1-0 loss in his last start, a complete-game effort in Anaheim.
"He was really good against a really tough lineup that has been scoring some runs," said manager Eric Wedge. "Again, he did a great job with his fastball and changeup and started mixing in his breaking ball a little later in the game. He got some big double plays, put the ball on the ground when he needed to and kept them off balance."
The only run in that loss came on a wild pitch, making Saunders the first pitcher to lose a 1-0 game when the only run scored on a wild pitch.
"It was just one of those 'hang-with-'em' starts,'" Saunders said of the lack of run support. "I wish we could have got at 'W', but the other pitcher threw the ball well, and they were just one run better."
Saunders will certainly have his work cut out for him against Locke and the Pirates. Locke is a terrific 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA this year.
He threw seven innings of four-hit shutout ball in Cincinnati on Thursday. It was the seventh time in his last 12 starts that Locke didn't allow a run, and the ninth time he surrendered four hits or fewer in that span.
"I know that I've got guys here I got to do my best to take care of, because they're taking care of me," Locke said.
Mariners: Nothing stopping Ibanez
Veteran Raul Ibanez hit his team-leading 16th and 17th home runs on Sunday, and he has hit 15 of his 17 long balls since May 10.
He is just the 11th player (it's happened 13 times) to hit 15 or more home runs in his age-41 season or older. The record for most homers in a season at age 41 or older is 29 by Ted Williams in 1960.
Pirates: McCutchen crushes against American League
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has hit .443 (35-for-79) with 10 doubles, a triple, five home runs and 18 RBIs in his last 20 Interleague games.
In seven games against the AL West this year, he's hit 14-for-28 with two homers.
• After hitting .089 with one RBI in his first 13 games of the year, Pedro Alvarez is hitting .271 with 19 home runs and 52 RBIs in his last 55 ballgames.
• Even after a weekend sweep of the Angels, the Pirates have swept just four Interleague series in 17 years of games against the AL. It was their first on the road.
• Saunders is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three career starts vs. the Pirates. He's also 10-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 16 career starts at Safeco Field, including 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA in seven starts this season since signing with the Mariners as a free agent, compared to 1-5 with a 6.46 ERA in eight road outings.