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Saunders homers, Mariners beat Twins for fifth straight win

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Associated Press
8/19/2012 7:57:43 PM
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SEATTLE -- Michael Saunders is showing signs of snapping out of his terrible slump.

Saunders hit a two-run homer, Blake Beavan pitched into the sixth inning and the Seattle Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 on Sunday for their fifth straight victory.

Seattle completed a three-game series sweep and has won 12 of 13 at Safeco Field. Minnesota lost its fifth in a row.

The Mariners held a slim 2-1 lead before Saunders drove a 1-0 pitch from Jeff Gray over the wall in right in the seventh. Dustin Ackley, who led off with a double, was aboard for Saunders' career-best 11th homer.

Saunders went 5 for 12 in the series against Minnesota to raise his August batting average to .155.

"I was certainly struggling there for a while," he said. "I was trying too hard, over-swinging, trying to do more than I was capable of doing. I just tried to back to ground zero."

Ground zero, for Saunders, is his refigured swing honed during the off-season. He came into the season with a.196 career average in three years with the Mariners but got off to a strong start in 2012. He was hitting as high as .282 in mid-June but has been on a steady decline since.

"Everyone goes through slumps now and then. Mine was too long," he said. "I felt like I needed to ease off the ease-o-meter."

He was mired in a 2-for-42 rut before the Twins came to town. Sunday's homer was his first since July 24.

"There were different mechanical issues I had to figure out and certainly a different mental approach I needed to figure out coming into this year," he said. "There are signs of success but there are also signs I need to keep going. I can't get complacent or content. The last couple weeks showed me that."

Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he is pleased with Saunders' season and added: "He's going to be better. He's a complete player. He helps us win so many different ways. I've been very pleased with him. He's just scratching the surface."

Beavan (8-7) also is showing some progress after a first-half demotion to the minors. Since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, he is 5-1 with a 3.74 ERA in six starts.

"It's so much easier when you throw good pitches," said Beavan, who allowed one run and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings against the Twins. "I'm just trying to make one pitch at a time and go from there."

Samuel Deduno (4-1) issued six walks in six innings for Minnesota, but limited Seattle to two runs and five hits.

Trevor Plouffe put the Twins in front with a sacrifice fly in the second inning, but the Mariners took advantage of Deduno's wildness to take the lead in the third.

Ackley reached on a leadoff walk and Saunders singled to centre. Deduno then issued consecutive walks to Kyle Seager and John Jaso to force home a run. Jesus Montero bounced into a double play, allowing Saunders to score for a 2-1 lead.

Beavan said the Twins, known for patience and plate discipline, played into his hands.

"I'm not frustrated at all," he said. "I don't mind patient hitters. It's easier for me to get ahead. They fouled a lot of balls off today. They were patient but there were aggressive. I think a lot of guys change their approach when I face them."

The Twins were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and manager Ron Gardenhire said: "They pitched well but we missed out on a lot of opportunities ... We got people out there and couldn't get anybody in."

The Twins finally chased Beavan in the sixth after one-out singles by Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit. Carter Capps came in and walked Plouffe to load the bases, then struck out Matt Carson and retired Pedro Florimon to end the inning.

After Saunders' home run, the Mariners added one more in the seventh on Eric Thames' RBI double.

NOTES: Twins general manager Terry Ryan is touring the minor leagues to determine candidates for September callups. "We're going to bring guys up who deserve it, not just because guys are on the roster. We've had too much of that," manager Ron Gardenhire said. He said that pitching will be the priority. ... The Twins turned three double plays, adding to their major league lead of 148. ... The Twins were 3 for 28 with runners in scoring position for the series.

Michael Saunders (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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