Joe Saunders and the Seattle Mariners take aim at their longest winning streak in 10 years on Wednesday afternoon when they conclude a three-game series versus the Cleveland Indians.
The Mariners have ripped off a season-high eight straight wins, having swept three-game sets with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Houston Astros before taking the first two against Cleveland.
By going 21-15 over its past 36 contests, Seattle is just four games under .500 and 8 1/2 back of the AL's second wild card.
Winning nine in a row for the first time since May 27-June 5, 2003 would be another big step forward and Saunders will look to accomplish that feat and extend his own personal winning streak.
Saunders has posted a 1.73 earned run average in winning all four of his starts this month, pushing his overall record to 9-8 with a 4.28 ERA in 20 starts. He picked up a 10-7 win at Houston on Friday, giving up three runs, nine hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings of work.
The 32-year-old southpaw did not factor into a 5-4 loss to Cleveland on May 18 and allowed four runs as well as a season high-tying 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. He is 2-1 in seven career meetings with the Tribe, logging a 3.64 ERA.
The Indians swept that four-game series at home in mid-May, winning three times in walk-off fashion. However, a base-running mistake in Tuesday's 4-3 loss cost them a chance at another late win over the Mariners.
With Seattle nursing its one-run lead, closer Tom Wilhelmsen gave up singles to Mark Reynolds and Lonnie Chisenhall to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Yan Gomes then hit a grounder to third and Kyle Seager fired to second base for the out.
However, rather than try to complete the double play by throwing to first, second baseman Nick Franklin caught a pinch-running Drew Stubbs too far off the bag at third and caught Stubbs in a run down. He was eventually tagged out and Michael Bourn then struck out to end the game.
"A great job by those guys hanging in there. Nick's eyes were on Stubbs, who got himself hung up there," Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson said.
Thompson filled in for Seattle manager Eric Wedge for a second straight game. A dizzy spell caused Wedge to be taken to the hospital before Monday's opener and it is unknown when he will return to the club.
Seager had three hits and Erasmo Ramirez pitched into the sixth inning to earn his first win of the season and second of his career.
With Ramirez getting the victory, Seattle starters are 8-0 with a 2.04 ERA over the current win streak.
Cleveland, meanwhile, has lost four of its past five and slipped 3 1/2 games behind Detroit for first place in the AL Central.
Gomes had a two-run homer and Zach McAllister, activated off the 15-day disabled list before the game, took the loss after allowing three earned runs over five innings.
"I thought he had a very good changeup and kept his composure. We're making him throw a lot of pitches. I thought he did a very good job," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland, which was swept in three games at Seattle from Aug. 20-22 of last year, turns to Scott Kazmir, who is unbeaten in seven straight outings and looks to avoid his first setback since June 10 in today's matchup.
The left-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in six straight starts, going 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in that span. Both runs he allowed in Friday's start at Minnesota were unearned and he also yielded three hits and two walks in a no- decision.
Kazmir is 5-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 17 starts this season, including a no- decision at home to Seattle on May 20. The 29-year-old was touched for five runs over just three innings, but taken off the hook for a no-decision in Cleveland's 10-8 win.
In 10 career starts versus the Mariners, Kazmir is 3-3 with a 3.90 ERA.