SEATTLE – If Cliff Lee is in his waning days as a Mariner, he’s going out with a flourish.
And the suddenly torrid Mariners are putting together a pitching surge to savor.
Lee on Wednesday turned in the latest in a growing series of hurling gems as the Mariners ran their winning streak to six with an 8-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
During that span, Mariners starters have given up just three earned runs in 47
With a complete-game, nine-hit performance, Lee took over the ERA lead in the A.L. at 2.39, moving under teammate Doug Fister and Tampa Bay’s David Price (both at 2.45).
The offensive spark for the Mariners was provided by Michael Saunders, who drove in a career-high four runs, capped by a two-run homer to right field in the eighth inning.
The only downer for Seattle is that the front-runners in the American League West, the Texas Rangers, have matched them win for win, and then some. The Rangers on Wednesday racked up their 10th straight victory to maintain a 13-game lead on the last-place Mariners.
One consolation: The third-place A’s dropped their third straight to the same Cincinnati team that got swept in Seattle last weekend, and their lead on the Mariners is down to 2
Their large deficit to the Rangers is what will likely force the M’s to trade Lee, a potential free agent after the season. But while he is here, Lee is showing why he is such a coveted acquisition.
Lee again went through an entire outing without issuing a walk, the fourth straight game he has done that, a club record. And he shattered Jamie Moyer’s streak of 28
With nine strikeouts (four of them looking), Lee has a nearly unfathomable 76 to 4 strikeouts-to-walks ratio this season. He is 15-3 for his career in interleague games, 19-6 lifetime in June, and 20-7 over his last 31 starts.
Lee has worked at least eight innings in seven of his 11 starts in 2010, and five of his last six. It was his fourth complete game, giving him the A.L. lead despite missing the first month of the season.
After Tyler Colvin touched Lee for a solo homer in the second inning, just the third homer he’s given up this season, the Mariners exploded for four off Cubs starter Randy Wells in the fourth.
Jose Lopez got things going with a one-out single, and Franklin Gutierrez followed with an infield single. Josh Wilson then hit a bounder down the third-base line, speared by third baseman Jeff Baker. Third-base umpire Bill Miller initially signaled foul, then quickly changed his ruling to fair, as all runners were safe.
Casey Kotchman punched a single to left to drive in the tying run, and after Rob Johnson struck out, Saunders drew a four-pitch walk to force in the go-ahead run. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a two-run single to center for a 4-1 lead.
They extended that to 6-1 with a pair in the sixth, the big hit a run-scoring double by Saunders.
•Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu says Doug Fister will return to the rotation on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Fister threw a bullpen session before Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander has been out with tightness and fatigue in his pitching shoulder. His last start was May 31.