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Originally published Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 7:21 PM

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Safeco Joe eager to break pattern on road | Mariners Notebook

Nearly unbeatable at Safeco Field, Joe Saunders calls his home-road dichotomy "hard to explain," but expects to start pitching well on the road.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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"You guys gonna lead off with my favorite question?" asked Joe Saunders good-naturedly of a media contingent that knew exactly what he was talking about.

Instead, the query came moments later, about the strange home-road dichotomy that has defined his 2013 season.

Saunders shut down Oakland over 6-1/3 innings to go 3-0 at Safeco this year with a 0.94 earned-run average. The Seattle lefty next pitches at Cleveland, and on the road this year, he's 0-4 with a 12.54 ERA and, no doubt, getting tired of hearing about it.

"It's hard to explain," he said. "I pride myself on being a good road pitcher. It hasn't happened yet. Hopefully, the next start, I can turn the page. I know I have it in me."

It's not as though Saunders is naturally road-averse. A year ago, with Arizona, in fact, his numbers were the opposite — at home, he was 6-8 with a 5.62 ERA, and away from Phoenix, 3-5 with a 2.66 ERA.

"Trust me, as much as it's killing everybody else in here, it's killing me the most," Saunders said. "As much as it's eating at Carl (Willis, pitching coach) and Wedgie (manager Eric Wedge), it's eating me more."

There's no denying Saunders has a good thing going at Safeco. The win over the A's bumped his career record there to 9-0 with a 1.72 ERA.

Adventure in right

The M's have a .992 fielding percentage, second in the American League, and have gone almost a quarter of the season without a multi-error game. But that doesn't mean they're perfect.

With two outs in the fifth, Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes hit a fly down the right-field foul line on which Michael Morse galloped toward the seats, and then, in an ungainly attempt at the ball, reached back and had it glance off his glove for a two-base error.

Even Saunders had to chuckle afterward, saying, "He's going hell-bent-for-election for the wall, and I'm thinking, 'Oh, no, that ball's gonna come back there.' I knew he was gonna overrun it. But as a pitcher, you want to pick your guys up as soon as you can. So for me to get another fly ball there to redeem himself, it was pretty fun."

Saunders got Josh Donaldson on a fly, this one routine, to Morse to end the inning unscathed.

Notes

• In the oddball-stats department, the M's led the majors entering Sunday in home runs by outfielders with 23. Colorado was second at 20.

• Wedge on the play on which shortstop Brendan Ryan cut down a runner at the plate for Saunders in the second inning: "Not too many shortstops make that play. His awareness is tremendous."

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