The Seattle Mariners are on the verge of their longest winning streak in a decade, yet it’s uncertain if manager Eric Wedge will be there to watch this finale against the Cleveland Indians.
Joe Saunders looks to lead the Mariners to a ninth straight victory Wednesday as he tries to match a career high with a fifth consecutive winning start.
With Tim Wilhelmsen earning his 23rd save - and second straight to open this series - Seattle (48-52) won 4-3 on Tuesday. The Mariners, who were swept in Cleveland from May 17-20, will take the field Wednesday looking to win a ninth consecutive game for the first time since May 27-June 5, 2003.
“When we were in Cleveland they were playing really good baseball, obviously, and they got a few breaks for them and that’s what good teams do,” said Kyle Seager, who went 3 for 4 with an RBI on Tuesday. “This series we’ve been playing pretty well and we’ve been able to capitalize when given the opportunities.”
It’s uncertain if Wedge will return to the bench after spending the last two nights in the hospital following a dizzy spell Monday. Bench coach Robby Thompson has managed the last two games.
The Mariners are averaging 6.3 runs during their streak, while their starters have a 2.04 ERA.
Saunders (9-8, 4.28 ERA) has won twice during that stretch after yielding three runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of Friday’s 10-7 win at Houston.
The left-hander told the Mariners’ official website that he “felt a little sluggish,” but he’s posted a 1.73 ERA in four July outings.
Saunders has won five consecutive starts once before, with the Angels in 2008.
He’ll get his second look at Cleveland (52-48) this season after giving up a season high-tying 11 hits and four runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-4 defeat May 18.
The Indians, losers of four of five since the All-Star break to fall 3 1/2 back of AL Central-leading Detroit, will try to salvage the finale with Saunders’ former Angels teammate, Scott Kazmir (5-4, 4.30), on the hill.
The left-hander, who allowed five runs in three innings against Seattle on May 20, is 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his last six outings. Kazmir gave up just two hits and two runs - both unearned - over six innings in Friday’s 3-2 loss at Minnesota, lowering his ERA in his last three road starts to 1.50.
Yan Gomes has been behind the plate for Kazmir’s last six starts, and manager Terry Francona plans on keeping that battery in place.
“Unless something happens, we’ll keep doing it,” Francona told the Indians’ official website. “And we want Gomes to play.”
That’s probably a good idea with the way Gomes has hit Mariners pitching. He’s batting 6 for 13 with three homers and six RBIs in three games against Seattle this season after going 2 for 4 with a two-run shot Tuesday, and is 3 for 6 lifetime off Saunders.
Cleveland can use all the offense it can get as it’s hitting .213 in the second half.
The Indians, though, have a 1.98 ERA with 40 strikeouts during the first five games of a trip that ends Wednesday.