Rangers-Mariners Preview

The Associated Press

Joe Saunders never beat the Texas Rangers on the road - until it counted the most.

Saunders still should be happy to be facing the Rangers on Saturday night at Safeco Field - where he has never lost - as his Seattle Mariners continue this four-game set.

In the regular season, the venue has proved to be decisive as to how Saunders (1-1, 3.48 ERA) has fared against Texas (7-4). He went 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in six regular-season starts in Arlington, but was 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA in five home starts against the Rangers with the Los Angeles Angels between 2006-10.

Saunders, though, has pleasant memories of the last time he saw Texas. He allowed one run over 5 2-3 innings to help Baltimore post a 5-1 road victory last October in the first AL wild-card playoff game.

"They've got some new faces that I've never faced. So who knows?" Saunders told the Mariners' official website. "Obviously, it's a new year. Every year brings new challenges and there are new faces on their side and our side."

The left-hander won't be happy to see Ian Kinsler, who is 11 for 26 with four homers against him overall and 4 for 9 with a homer in this series. Kinsler has more homers against Saunders than against any other pitcher.

Saunders, though, certainly enjoys pitching at Safeco. He yielded six hits and one walk over 6 1-3 innings Monday for a 3-0 victory over Houston, improving to 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 10 career starts in Seattle.

"I thought my command was better," said Saunders, who lasted four-plus innings and gave up four runs and walked four in his Mariners debut April 3 in a 6-2 loss at Oakland. "I was able to feel the ball a little bit better."

Runs have been tough to come by in this series, with Texas winning 4-3 on Thursday and Seattle (5-7) responding with a 3-1 victory Friday.

It's also been tough to score against Alexi Ogando (2-0, 0.77) this year as he prepares for his third start. Ogando's 1.68 career ERA in April is his best in any month, and he gave up his only run of the season Monday over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay.

The right-hander, who began 7-0 in his last season as a starter in 2011, went 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA in four starts against the Mariners that year. He posted an 8.22 ERA over seven relief appearances against them in 2012.

Struggling Seattle slugger Justin Smoak is 5 for 12 against Ogando, but brings a .175 average into this contest.

A key to this series has been hitting with runners in scoring position. Texas went 3 for 9 and Seattle was 0 for 9 on Thursday while the Mariners went 4 for 10 and held the Rangers hitless in six such at-bats Friday.

"The opportunities we had, we just couldn't cash them in," Ron Washington said.

Kyle Seager had one of those hits Friday with a two-run double to cap a three-run first inning.

Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski is 4 for 7 with a solo homer in this series.