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Saunders stops M’s for ninth win


Seattle right fielder Wladimir Balentien can't corral Maicer Izturis' RBI single in the fourth inning Tuesday. Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Seattle right fielder Wladimir Balentien can't corral Maicer Izturis' RBI single in the fourth inning Tuesday. Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Gregg Bell Associated Press

SEATTLE – Joe Saunders, a Triple-A traveler last season, allowed one earned run in seven innings to become the American League’s first nine-game winner and Maicer Izturis drove in three runs as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 5-4 on Tuesday night.

The Angels scored all of their runs early off Erik Bedard, who was supposed to be the left-handed ace Saunders has become this season. The man for whom Seattle traded five players to Baltimore in February was booed off the mound during the 19th loss in 26 games for the team with the A.L.’s worst record.

The Angels’ Jose Arredondo pitched a perfect eighth. Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth for his 23rd save in 24 chances to put Los Angeles a season-best 12 games better than .500.

Saunders (9-2) allowed six hits and likely would have cruised with a 5-1 lead but for two errors in the fifth inning for the Angels, who scored more than four runs for the first time in 14 games. The resourceful A.L. West leaders have won 10 of those games.

Saunders had four stints with the Angels last season while on a perpetual shuttle to and from Triple-A Salt Lake City. Now, he’s perpetually good.

Using a sweeping curve and well-placed fastballs, he struck out five and walked one while lowering his ERA to 2.63. Saunders, who has yet to pitch an entire season in the major leagues, has allowed one or no earned runs in six of 12 starts this season.

Not bad for a $425,000 salary.

Bedard (4-4), a $7 million man, had asked the Mariners for an extra day of rest following his two-hit blanking of Boston over six innings May 28.

He lasted just 3 1/3 innings – his second-shortest start of the season – and allowed seven hits and five runs. He walked three and struck out one.

Torii Hunter’s RBI double in the first that scored Reggie Willits and Izturis’ two-run single in the second made it 3-0. In the fourth, Bedard allowed a leadoff double to Robb Quinlan and walked No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis for the second time. Willits sacrificed them to second and third, and Izturis and Kendrick followed with consecutive RBI singles to make it 5-0 and end Bedard’s night.

Bedard said nothing and barely looked at John McLaren as McLaren silently took the ball and waited for R.A. Dickey to arrive from the bullpen. Dickey pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and got a standing ovation from the home crowd after he finished the eighth. Dickey has been scoreless in 11 innings of long relief on Seattle’s homestand.

The Angels’ two errors in the fifth led to three unearned runs, after they had made just 24 errors in 59 games.

Seattle made it 5-2 when second baseman Howie Kendrick dropped a chopper by Lopez while Betancourt scored. Jose Vidro then lined a single over Kendrick’s leap and glove to score Ichiro Suzuki with another unearned run to make it 5-3.

Ichiro had reached on an infield single, something he’s had relatively few of this season while batting .287. The perennial All-Star’s previous low entering June was .317.

Raul Ibanez then hit what should have been an inning-ending grounder to Quinlan, but the third baseman threw almost 10 feet wide of first base for another error and unearned run to get Seattle to within 5-4.

The Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury.

ANGELS5
MARINERS4
Today: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle, 1:30 p.m. TV: FSN
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