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Joe Saunders Bounces Back in Mariners' Home Opener

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 08:  Starting pitcher Joe Saunders #23 of the Seattle Mariners pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Safeco Field on April 8, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Jordan BallCorrespondent IApril 9, 2013

After winning the No. 3 spot in the Seattle rotation during spring training, Joe Saunders didn't exactly get off on the right foot in his 2013 debut.

On April 3 against a dangerous A's team, Saunders yielded four earned runs in only four innings pitched. He saw his pitch count sky to 88 in that short amount of time while striking out three batters and walking four. 

Though it wasn't ideal, it was only the first game of the season. 

In Monday night's game the eight-year veteran redeemed himself as the Mariners played under the lights of their beautiful Safeco Field for the first time in 2013.

Playing against new division foe, the Houston Astros, Saunders worked his way through 6.1 shutout innings in impressive fashion.

While Saunders helped himself to five strikeouts and gave up only one walk, the M's defense helped their starter out with Gold Glove-caliber plays from center fielder Franklin Gutierrez and shortstop Brendan Ryan among others. 

"Guti" also picked Saunders up at the plate by getting a run across in fifth with a sacrifice bunt. Add that to the two RBI Kendrys Morales drove in and you have the three runs the M's put on the board on the night. 

The 3-0 win evened Saunders' record to 1-1 on the year, while he saw his ERA fall from 9.00 all the way down to 3.48.

After the game, Saunders reviewed his performance: "I thought my command was better. I was able to feel the ball a little bit better," Saunders said. "It was just a matter of telling yourself, 'hey, we've got a lot of fans in the stands tonight, go out and put on a decent show and treat them to a win.'" (via AP, h/t ESPN.com)

Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save on the year.

This win also kept his undefeated streak at Safeco alive. With his 10th career start there and first as a member of the good guys now in the books, he is an impressive 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA.

With the Rangers coming into town on Saturday, Saunders will get the start once again to see if he can gain momentum from tonight's appearance and keep his winning streak alive in Seattle. 

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