With their 3rd consecutive win last night in a make-up game against the Yankees, the Seattle Mariners are back to one game over .500 and are just six games behind the Athletics in the AL West. Though Felix Hernandez pitched brilliantly to earn his 8th win of the year, it was the offense that came alive in the late going that won the game for the Mariners. Led by Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager, Seattle scored four runs in both the seventh and ninth innings to put the game out of reach.
Although he’s only started 34 of the Mariner’s 57 games, Michael Saunders has shown that he can be a very productive player for the Mariners. In last night’s start, Saunders went 2 for 5, with a two-run single in the seventh inning and a solo home run, his fourth of the year, in the ninth to lead his team to 10-2 victory over the Yankees.
Saunders was able to provide a spark for the Mariners out of the two-hole yet again this year. In 35 at-bats this season hitting second in the lineup, Saunders is hitting an incredible .429 (15 for 35). On the year, Saunders is having arguably the best season of his career. He is on pace to have the highest batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage of his career. While his stolen bases are down, he is projected to have the most RBIs, runs, and triples of his career while striking out at the lowest rate since he came into the league.
After becoming a household name during the 2013 World Baseball Classic when he played for Team Canada (going 8 for 11 with a home run, three doubles, and seven RBIs in 3 games), Saunders looks like he is finally becoming a reliable player on the offensive side of the ball. He has five multi-hit games in his last 14 starts (over 18 games for the Mariners), raising his batting average from .226 to .279. He has 3 of his 4 home runs in that span, as well as 18 of his 25 RBIs on the season. Saunders has collected at least one hit or one RBI in each of those 14 games.
With $240 million invested in Robinson Cano and $175 million invested in Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners must rely on cheap players to produce alongside their two stars. Michael Saunders been one of those players this season. While making just $2.3 million and playing in a limited role, Saunders has been able to perform as well as the everyday starters on this team, like Cano, Seager, Justin Smoak, and Dustin Ackley.
With all of the money that the Mariners have spent to be a consistently-winning ball club, they must continue to rely on players like Michael Saunders if they hope to achieve that goal. While it’s great to have superstars, it’s the cheap players who fly under-the-radar that can make-or-break a season. That is exactly the type of player that Michael Saunders is.