The Mariners will look to ride a recent offensive hot streak into their series opener vs. the Blue Jays at Safeco Field. Seattle hit .289 during its six-game road trip, including 10 home runs and 32 RBIs, averaging 5.33 runs a game.
Among the suddenly hot hitters was Michael Saunders, who went 4-for-10 during their three-game set in Baltimore, including three home runs and eight RBIs. It's a big difference for the Canadian outfielder, who raised his batting average nearly 40 points to .235 over the last seven weeks.
"Something wasn't working for me, and I didn't know what it was," said Saunders of his early-season struggles. "It's a game of having to adapt. I was missing balls that I should have been driving, and that was a tell-tale sign for me. So I was trying to make it a little simpler and get back to basics. It just happened kind of naturally, really."
The 26-year-old said he stumbled into a slight change in his hitting approach shortly before the All-Star break, moving his hands less and simplifying his stroke, and the results have been noticeable.
"I can't really explain it, but it felt natural to me and I started doing it a couple series ago in Anaheim," Saunders said. "I wasn't always getting my hits, but I felt like I was getting good at-bats and that was my main goal. They've started dropping for me a little more of late. I dug myself a deep hole for a while there, but I feel good now."
However, Saunders and the Mariners offense will be up against something they don't typically see: R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball.
Dickey will be on the mound for the Blue Jays, and he is coming off a solid outing vs. the Athletics in which he threw six shutout innings and struck out eight.
"He had a good knuckler today and he changed speeds on it, and we didn't get too many good swings on it," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Dickey.
He'll be opposed by Hisashi Iwakuma, who took a no-decision in his last start against the Red Sox in which he allowed two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
The effectiveness of the outing was impressive, considering the 32-year-old right-hander was hampered slightly by a knot in his left shoulder that affected his command.
"I'd been having a minor pain in my neck since my last start," Iwakuma said. "It's been bothering me, but nothing major. It did affect my pitches, because I couldn't command to both sides of the plate, but I was able to pitch inside to a lot of the hitters."
Mariners: Wedge waiting until he's 100 percent to return
• When the Mariners return home for a six-game homestand Monday, one familiar face will still be absent: manager Eric Wedge.
Wedge has been sidelined for two weeks after suffering a minor stroke July 22, and the 45-year-old isn't quite ready to return to his club, according to general manager Jack Zduriencik.
"I don't think Eric will be with us this week," Zduriencik said prior to Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Orioles. "I know he has a couple appointments ongoing. He's got something midweek where he's going to sit down with doctors.
"He's doing well. I talk to him every day and he sounds normal and he's excited to get back here. He wants to get back. But when Eric gets back, you want him to be back. His anxiousness to get back here in the dugout is one thing, but this is a life-long health issue for him. When he gets back managing this club, we want him to be here. You don't want him to come in here and be here for two or three days."
Zduriencik said that he'll know more midway through the week, but at this point in time with the demands of Wedge's role, it wouldn't be fair to him or the Mariners if he returned before he was 100 percent.
"The stress of a ballgame, the length of time a manager has to put in and the way he is -- he comes early and leaves late -- from our standpoint, they just need to sign off and say you're 100 percent ready to go so we don't have a bump in the road where he's out here 3-4 days and then has to take a step back. That's not fair to Eric or fair to the ballclub. I think we'll just wait and give it a little more time."
Blue Jays: Johnson's spot in jeopardy
• Josh Johnson is scheduled to take the mound Tuesday against the Mariners, but his role is not secure after a string of tough outings.
Johnson has allowed 25 earned runs over his past 16 innings and has come away with a loss in six straight decisions.
"Right now he's scheduled to make his next start, but there's no question it's been about six starts where he has been getting hit," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "I know he's working hard and he's not making any excuses at all, he continues to battle. But it's something we continue to talk about.
"We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues, it's really start-to-start at this point, it's really the only way to characterize it. Right now, he's going to make one more start and we'll see how he does but we'll continue to evaluate it each time."
If the Blue Jays do seek alternatives, they have several options at their disposal. Prospects Marcus Stroman, and Sean Nolin are in the mix, while rehabbing right-handers Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison aren't too far behind in their return from last year's Tommy John surgeries.
• Kendrys Morales became only the second Mariners player in club history to have back-to-back four-hit games Thursday and Friday, joining Ichiro Suzuki. He's gone 2-for-9 since.
• Iwakuma is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA vs. the Blue Jays in three games, two of them starts. He won his only start against them at Safeco Field on July 30, 2012, when he allowed one earned run over eight innings with 13 strikeouts.
• The Blue Jays avoided a four-game sweep Sunday against the Angels. Toronto notched four runs in the final two innings to win the series finale, 6-5.