Last updated: April 09. 2013 1:39AM - 2496 Views
Associated Press

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Joe Saunders throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Joe Saunders throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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(AP) Kendrys Morales drove in two runs in his Seattle home debut, Joe Saunders rebounded from a rough first start to throw 6 1-3 shutout innings, and the Mariners debuted the new look of Safeco Field with a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros on Monday.

Morales snapped Seattle's 0-for-14 drought with runners in scoring position by chopping an RBI single in the first and added a two-out RBI double in the third, both off Houston starter Philip Humber (0-2). Michael Saunders scored each time.

Saunders (1-1) and the bullpen made it stand on a cool night with the stadium roof open. He combined with three relievers for the Mariners' second shutout. Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a perfect ninth for his third save.

Monday night was the first look at Seattle's redesigned field dimensions and its new giant video screen.

After being one of the most unfriendly hitters' parks, the Mariners made changes to the outfield in an effort to make the park fair to both hitters and pitchers.

The fences were brought in between 4 and 17 feet depending on the area of the outfield.

They were barely threatened by either team.

Humber was trying to match the perfect game he threw against the Mariners last season while with the Chicago White Sox.

Any thought of equaling that feat was gone after just one batter when Saunders led off with an opposite-field single. He then stole second on the next pitch and scored when Morales chopped his single over the glove of Houston shortstop Ronny Cedeno to give Seattle an early lead.

Morales came through again in the third inning after Saunders reached on a bloop single that fell on the left-field foul line. Franklin Gutierrez struck out for the second out of the inning, but Morales lined Humber's pitch into the gap for his third double of the season.

Seattle added another run in the fifth when manager Eric Wedge guessed correctly and Gutierrez dropped a perfect squeeze bunt to score Dustin Ackley. The Mariners missed a chance for a big inning when Michael Morse grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.

Saunders went 6 1-3 innings, allowing six hits and striking out five. He improved to 7-0 all time at Safeco Field and dropped his ERA at the ballpark to 1.91 in 10 career starts.

It was an important and impressive rebound following a spring where he struggled and a first start in Oakland when Saunders had trouble gripping pitches and lasted just four innings.

It helped that Saunders was facing the Astros, who struck out 74 times in the first six games. Houston struck out eight times on Monday night, and only once got a runner to third base.

Brandon Barnes reached third following Cedeno's two-out single in the fifth, but Saunders got Jose Altuve to ground into a force out to end the inning. Saunders got help earlier in the game when Gutierrez made a diving catch in right-center field to rob Cedeno of at least a double leading off the third inning.

Notes: Former Seattle pitcher Jamie Moyer threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Before the game, the 50-year-old said he has not officially retired. Moyer pitched 11 seasons in Seattle and made 10 starts last year for Colorado. ... Houston's J.D. Martinez left the game after popping out in the fourth inning. He was replaced by Rick Ankiel. ... Seattle had lost its past three home openers.

Associated Press
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