Michael Saunders has three of Mariners' five hits, including his sixth homer, but Mark Trumbo goes 4 for 4 with pair of homers, a double and four runs batted in.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Michael Saunders did his best to add a tone of caution to every statement he made about his noticeable improvements at the plate.
Saunders was the only thing worth noticing offensively for the Mariners on a night they were otherwise manhandled, 6-1, by Garrett Richards and the Los Angeles Angels.
L.A. left fielder Mark Trumbo was 4 for 4, tying a career high, with two homers and four runs batted in.
A home run, double and single by Saunders on Tuesday night had briefly lifted his on-base-plus-slugging percentage over the .800-mark for the first time this late in his four-year career.
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Saunders still sounded conservative, noting how early it is and how far away he was a year ago. That won’t do much to quiet talk about moving him closer to the top of a batting order that is still a work-in-progress, a move even his manager suggests is still possible.
“I’ve known all along I can be a productive major-league ballplayer and a good one,” Saunders said. “I needed to answer my own questions this offseason and I did. And coming into spring training, I was ready to answer everybody else’s.
“We’re not even halfway through the year, so I know we still have a long season left. But I’m seeing my hard work pay off a little bit.”
Saunders gave his team its only run against Richards, up from Class AAA to replace the injured Jered Weaver. With the Mariners down 2-0 in the third, Saunders got hold of a pitch and sent it soaring over the center-field wall.
That was about all the Mariners did on a night Richards owned them for seven innings, striking out nine batters to record his first major-league win. A crowd of 35,021 at Angel Stadium saw Trumbo and Torii Hunter go deep back-to-back off Mariners starter Blake Beavan in the second inning.
The Angels scored twice more on four consecutive two-out hits in the bottom of the third off Beavan, then Trumbo took him deep again for a two-run blast in the fifth to close out the scoring.
“(Trumbo’s) a good hitter,” Beavan said. “He makes adjustments well. They didn’t miss anything tonight.”
Beavan had trouble getting his off-speed pitches over for strikes early in the count. As a result, the Angels sat on his fastball.
“They were pretty aggressive in that second inning,” Beavan said. “Unfortunately, (there were) two quick homers there. I had to make an adjustment fast. I made the adjustment for the most part, I just didn’t make pitches that I wanted to.”
Trumbo later added his fourth hit, a double in the eighth off Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma worked the final three innings in relief of Beavan, sparing the rest of the bullpen for Wednesday’s start by Hector Noesi on short rest. Other than Saunders, the Mariners were never really a factor in this contest, with five hits.
The player who had three of those hits said it was tough to gather advance information on Richards, 24, who had made only three big-league starts over eight outings dating to last season.
“We were searching for video on him and we got a little bit of last year, but we didn’t have too much information heading in,” Saunders said. “Getting to see how he kind of attacked guys in front of me gave me an idea of what to expect.”
For all the success this lineup has had lately — with 55 runs the last six games heading into this contest — it remains a work in progress. Leadoff hitter Ichiro was 0 for 4 and has an on-base percentage of just .287.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was asked whether he believed Saunders could be counted on higher up in the order, or benefits from hitting lower in the order.
“I don’t think that that’s necessarily where he’s going to end up,” Wedge said of Saunders’ No. 8 spot in the order. “I feel comfortable really hitting him anywhere. I think he’s a guy, who, with his skill set, can probably hit anywhere up and down the lineup.”
Wedge has already used Saunders briefly at the leadoff and No. 2 spots this season. But having just moved Ichiro from No. 3 back to leadoff, it’s doubtful he would make such a switch so quickly without giving his veteran at least a couple of weeks to find his stroke.
Ichiro appeared to find something Saturday, hitting a pair of home runs. But he’s just 3 for 24 since returning to the leadoff spot.
Saunders is hitting .268 with a .340 on-base percentage and an OPS that slipped just back below .800 to .798 with a game-ending ground out. He’s 19 for 46 (.413) with two homers and five doubles his last 12 games.
“What he has done consistently this year is put himself in a good position to hit,” Wedge said. “Given himself a chance with each AB. And it’s paying off for him.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners.