Mariners-Blue Jays Preview
The Seattle Mariners have silenced the slumping Toronto Blue Jays this weekend.
Seeking a season-high fourth straight win, Seattle turns to Saunders as it tries to complete its first sweep in Toronto in 12 seasons.
After Felix Hernandez baffled the Blue Jays (10-21) in Friday's series opener, Hisashi Iwakuma outpitched R.A. Dickey in Saturday's 8-1 victory. Michael Saunders - a native of British Columbia - hit two homers and Dustin Ackley connected on a grand slam as the Mariners (15-17) cruised to their sixth win in seven games.
Seattle has compiled a 2.00 ERA over that stretch - nearly two runs lower than its season mark of 3.96.
The Mariners have also posted a 2.54 ERA in taking seven of eight from the Blue Jays, but they haven't swept them north of the border since winning all three matchups May 11-13, 2001.
While Seattle continues to roll, Toronto hasn't seen much go its way of late. The Blue Jays have lost eight of nine, including all four games this month by a 25-3 margin.
Third baseman Brett Lawrie saw his average drop back down to .197 after going 0 for 3 on Saturday. Slugging right fielder Jose Bautista is batting just .207.
"We're somewhat of a dysfunctional team right now," Dickey said. "We're kind of searching for a way to score runs, a way to pitch well. We're doing a lot of things poorly.
"We've got a group of great guys. And the chemistry in here, nobody is blaming other people. We're all trying to own what ours is to own in this. But we're not very good right now and everybody knows it."
Getting on track could prove difficult against Saunders (2-3, 5.25 ERA), who scattered four hits while throwing his eighth career complete game Monday in a 6-2 win over Baltimore.
"We knew what Joe was going to do," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters told MLB's official website. "Everyone sort of knows what Joe is going to do. That's why he's good and that's why he's pitched for so long. He's able to make the ball move late and get ground balls and get weak contact."
While Saunders improved to 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA at home, he's 0-3 with a 12.51 mark on the road.
"I don't know what's going on," he said. "I pride myself on being a good road pitcher, and haven't done that well this year. In my mind, I need to be a lot more consistent."
The left-hander, though, has won his last two starts at Rogers Centre while allowing two unearned runs over 14 1-3 innings. Edwin Encarnacion is 0 for 6 in their matchups and Bautista is 2 for 9.
The Blue Jays counter with Brandon Morrow (0-2, 5.29). The right-hander allowed three runs, six hits and three walks over five innings but didn't factor in the decision of Tuesday's 9-7 win over Boston.
Morrow, who spent the first three years of his career with Seattle, is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA against his former team. He's struck out 32 in 23 2-3 innings during those outings.
Morrow will need to be wary of Jason Bay, who figures to be back in the lineup after getting the day off Saturday. The veteran left fielder is batting .435 with two homers and seven RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.