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Originally published May 8, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Page modified May 9, 2013 at 4:08 PM

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Michael Saunders turning into key player at top of Mariners' lineup

Saunders has an impressive .914 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and says he's trying to be aggressive. "Every game, I'm looking to take the extra bases whenever I can," he said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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PITTSBURGH — Felix Hernandez's pitching and Jesus Montero's slugging were the big-ticket items in Wednesday's 2-1 Mariners victory.

But manager Eric Wedge reserved special praise for the energy of Michael Saunders, who didn't get any hits but was right in the middle of the action all day.

The Mariners' leadoff man started three innings with walks, and scored the Mariners' first run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch. He had advanced to second base on a previous wild pitch by A.J. Burnett, and took third on a ground out. Saunders also had a stolen base, his sixth in six attempts.

"He's out there hunting it," Wedge said. "That's the way he plays the game. He's hunting the ball at home plate. He's hunting the bag when he's on the bases, and he's hunting the ball in center field. That's one of the reasons he has a chance to be really special player in time."

Saunders, who has an impressive .914 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), agreed that he's trying to be aggressive.

"Every game, I'm looking to take the extra bases whenever I can," he said. "I'm looking to turn walks and singles into doubles. I feel that's really the only way to play this game. You get better reads on balls in the dirt if you're aggressive and looking for those. I'm always looking for the extra base."

Saunders gave credit to Mariners first-base coach Mike Brumley, who is in charge of baserunning.

"He's helped me out so much the last couple of years," Saunders said. "I take a lot of pride in my baserunning, trying to look for the edge every time."

Notes

• The Mariners drew five walks, which Wedge hopes is a trend. "What we need to continue to do is if they are not coming in to you, you need to lay your bat down and go to first base and give the next guy a turn," he said.

"I think it's especially true for (Kendrys) Morales and (Michael) Morse. These are guys in the middle of our lineup and sometimes their hearts get in the way. They want to do it so much, and they know they need to do it, and they come out of the strike zone a little bit. Once they start to reel that in and allow themselves to lay the bat down and leave it to the next guy, that's going to help them and help us so much, too."

Morse, who struck out three times in Tuesday's loss to the Pirates, was not in the lineup Wednesday.

• Hernandez is 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA in his past seven interleague starts on the road.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry

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