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Saunders sparks M’s again

Go-ahead single comes one day after dramatic home run

SEATTLE – Michael Saunders lined a two-run single off Boston reliever Hideki Okajima in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Seattle the lead, Milton Bradley’s squeeze bunt added another run, and the Mariners rallied for a 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday.

The Mariners’ unlikely rally salvaged a split of the four-game series and sent Boston into the final stage of its 10-game West Coast trip now eight games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.

It was the second straight day Saunders came up with a game-changing hit. A night earlier, Saunders broke up Jon Lester’s no-hit bid with a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Seattle’s 5-1 victory. The young left-fielder is hitting .309 over his last 19 games.

Seattle’s rally ruined a strong effort by Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who struggled with major control problems early before settling down to be in line for his third straight win.

Matsuzaka was wild early, at one point in the third inning already over 60 pitches and with an equal number of strikes and balls. But the Japanese righty settled down and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.

But his high pitch count early forced Matsuzaka out after six innings and Seattle took advantage of Boston’s bullpen. Matsuzaka allowed just one run and four hits, but was hampered by five walks.

Chris Seddon worked 22/3 perfect innings of relief for Seattle, but it was Brandon League (8-6) getting the win after he struck out Kevin Youkilis for the final out of the eighth inning. David Aardsma pitched the ninth for his 18th save in 22 chances.