SAN DIEGO -- In his 204 Major League games prior to this season, Michael Saunders stole 16 bases. This year, he has swiped 12 bags in his first 70 games. What gives?
For one thing, Saunders is getting on base far more frequently. His batting average of .267 and on-base percentage of .332, heading into Sunday's series finale with the Padres, are a huge step forward from career .196 and .263 marks.
But the 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder has also taken a more aggressive approach in all aspects of his game this season, including the basepaths where he stole two more bags in Saturday's 5-1 win.
"I'm always looking to try and take the extra base," said Saunders, who is 12-for-15 in his steal attempts. "I think as a club we are pretty aggressive on the basepaths. [Base running coach] Mike Brumley helps me a lot. He's taught me a lot about base stealing, how it's more of a skill especially at this level with how good the pitchers are at holding on and the catchers behind the plate will give you a good throw 95 percent of the time.
"We'll go over scouting reports and video and break down the starting pitchers on that day and go over the bullpen. Just trying to give us the extra edge on the basepaths."
The Mariners stole a season-high four bases in five attempts on Saturday, with Saunders leading the way.
"I think he's just more aggressive in general this year," manager Eric Wedge said. "His whole mindset is different. He just has a get-after attitude. He's coming here on a mission every day and it's paying off for him."
Seager gets day off to rest sore calf
SAN DIEGO -- After fouling a ball off his calf during Saturday night's game at San Diego, Kyle Seager got a day off Sunday as manager Eric Wedge put Chone Figgins in the starting lineup for the first time since June 12.
Seager limped around momentarily as Wedge and the trainer looked at him during his at-bat in the seventh inning, but stayed in the game and finished up an 0-for-5 night with another plate appearance in the ninth. He was still sore Sunday and was not in the lineup, though he was available to pinch-hit, according to Wedge.
Seager has been excellent this year at third base, but he committed two uncharacteristic errors in Friday's series opener against the Padres and is 0-for-9 this weekend, dropping his batting average to .259.
But Wedge said he's happy with the way Seager has been swinging and that had nothing to do with him sitting out.
Franklin Gutierrez was also given the day off Sunday, as expected, in the day game after a night contest as Wedge continues to be cautious with his center fielder as he returns from the disabled list. Jesus Montero also sat out so John Jaso could get a game behind the plate.
"We're just trying to keep everybody as sharp as we can as we work through this Interleague Play," Wedge said. "Obviously we get the DH back tomorrow."
With more time off, Ichiro goes on tear
SAN DIEGO -- Ichiro Suzuki has gone on a hitting tear since getting just his second day off this season on Monday, and manager Eric Wedge doesn't think it's a coincidence.
Wedge has given Ichiro two days off this season and indicated that will be something he does more with the 38-year-old after he went 11-for-22 in the ensuing five games to raise his average from .255 to .273. Ichiro concluded his red-hot road trip with a 1-for-3 day with a walk in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Padres, as he extended his hitting streak to five games.
"We'll pick some other spots for him to give him a day," Wedge said Sunday morning. "I just think it helps him. It's not a bad thing. Whatever we can do to get the most production from all of our guys, we're going to do. And if it means giving Ichi a day off here or there, that's what we're going to do."
Wedge doesn't have a set number of days off in mind, but said it'll be more of a feel for how things are going. He definitely likes the uptick in the veteran's performance this week.
"I've said it before. I think that does mean something," Wedge said of Ichiro's spike after his rest day. "He's a great player and all great players are a little stubborn because they want to play every day. But ultimately I think we've proven here in my short period of time, with all of the three days off I've given him in a year and a half, that he's had some success afterward. So I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing."
Wedge likes what he's seen recently from his veteran right fielder.
"Ichiro is turning it up, as far as I'm concerned," Wedge said. "He's a little more aggressive, early in the count, aggressive with pitches he feels he can drive and not just hit. He's tough with two strikes and that's been his game.
"But early in the count or ahead in the count, I like him being more aggressive and looking to barrel the ball up. That's what we've seen more of and he's had more success. Hopefully we're seeing the start of him getting himself going, which would be a big lift for us."
• When Felix Hernandez won Saturday's game in San Diego, it snapped a 10-game losing streak for Seattle's starting pitchers. In 15 games since Jason Vargas beat the Angels on June 4, Mariners starters had gone 0-10 with a 7.39 ERA.
On the flip side, Seattle's bullpen was 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 4-for-4 in save opportunities during that span.
• With his double on Saturday, Felix Hernandez became the only pitcher in Mariners history with more than one extra-base hit. Hernandez hit a grand slam off Johan Santana of the Mets exactly four years to the day prior to his two-run double.
The only other pitchers with extra-base hits for Seattle have been Paul Abbott, Doug Fister, Freddy Garcia, John Halama and Joel Pineiro.
• Danny Hultzen, last year's first-round Draft pick, struggled in his Triple-A debut for Tacoma on Saturday night as he gave up five runs, five hits and five walks in three innings in an 8-4 loss at hitter-friendly Colorado Springs. Hultzen had three strikeouts before being lifted after throwing 81 pitches.