By David Krueger Herald Writer
SEATTLE — All the talk in the offseason was of bringing the fences in and signing power hitters. But in their home opener, the Seattle Mariners won thanks to good old singles and doubles.
Safeco Field is yet to see a home run in 2013, but the Mariners made sure it saw a win for the home team, as Seattle came out victorious Monday night defeating new American League West division rival Houston 3-0.
Michael Saunders was 2-for-4 and scored twice on RBI base hits by Kendrys Morales, who was making his home debut for the Mariners. Morales went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.
“He’s a very professional hitter,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said of Morales. “He’s a smart hitter. He, as well as the other veterans, have been a great influence on our young kids.”
The Mariners got on the board quickly in the bottom of the first inning with Saunders leading off the game with a single. He quickly stole second base and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Franklin Gutierrez. Morales drove in Saunders with a single as the 42,589 in attendance at Safeco Field cheered wildly.
Saunders scored again in the third on an RBI double by Morales. The M’s third run came in the fifth when Dustin Ackley led off with a single — just his second hit of the season in 23 at bats — and scored on a squeeze bunt by Gutierrez.
“It was a safety squeeze. It just played out right for us situationally,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Everybody did a nice job. Ackley did a great job of getting on and hustling on the (Gutierrez) bunt.”
Seattle starting pitcher Joe Saunders (1-1) got his first win as a Mariner while improving to 7-0 in his career at Safeco Field with a 1.91 earned-run average in 10 career starts. Saunders struck out five batters in 61⁄3 innings of work and lowered his season ERA from 9.00 to 3.48.
“I don’t know. From day one I said I’m comfortable here. I like this place,” Joe Saunders said. “There’s just something about this place that I like. I can’t really explain it. … This place has been nice to me. Hopefully it keeps going.”
Wedge said he liked having a veteran on the mound that stays calm in a big game like the home opener.
“Joe did great. I was glad to have a veteran guy out there tonight in this type of setting, you know, your home opener’s always a big one,” Wedge said. “It’s nice to see him go out there and set the tone and pitch. I’ve really been encouraged by his strength.”
As for Saunders, he was happy to get a win in his first start at Safeco Field for the home team.
“I felt good. Felt my command was better. I was able to feel the ball a little bit better,” Saunders said. “It’s 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. Treat them to a win,’ hopefully, and was fortunate enough that it happened.”
Carter Capps and Charlie Furbush held Houston scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings before Tom Wilhelmsen closed out the ninth for his third save of the season.
The Mariners’ defense also shined in the home opener, led by Gutierrez, who made a diving catch in right-center field to rob Houston’s Ronny Cedeno of an extra-base hit in the top of the third inning.
Nobody was more appreciative than the man on the mound for the Mariners.
“I think the play of the game, obviously, was Guti,” Joe Saunders said. “That kept the momentum on our side. Defense was awesome, got some clutch hits from Kendrys too, so it was a good team effort.”