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Mariners' road success offsets Safeco woes

ANAHEIM -- As the Mariners open a critical 11-game road trip on Monday that will go a long way toward determining their playoff fate, one overhanging question looms. Why has Seattle been so much better on the road than at home this season?

The Mariners dropped four of six games in their just-completed homestand against the Astros and A's, putting their Safeco Field record at 38-40 with three home games remaining at season's end against the Angels.

But they have the best road record in the American League at 42-28 going into Monday's opener of a four-game set in Anaheim and will wind up with their first winning road record in 11 years even if they lose all 11 games on this final trek, which also includes stops in Houston and Toronto.

The 42 road wins already tie for the sixth-most in franchise history. And while they won't get to the club record 59 set in the 116-win season of 2001, they only need to go 4-7 on this trip to reach 46 and become the second-best Mariners road team ever.

Manager Lloyd McClendon isn't spending a lot of time at this point trying to figure out why his road warriors haven't done as well at Safeco.

"I can't really put my finger on it," McClendon said prior to Monday's game. "I don't have an answer for that. We've played extremely well on the road and haven't played very well at home, and the record is indicative of that. But at this point in the season, it is what it is. There's no sense in trying to analyze it. Take it and run with it. We're out here where we play best, so let's hope we continue to do that."

The obvious difference is Seattle's offense has continued to struggle at Safeco, even with the fences moved in a year ago. The Mariners have put up a .237/.292/.370 line and averaged 3.47 runs per game at home, while they're at .253/.310/.382 with 4.41 runs per game on the road.

Meanwhile, Seattle's stellar pitching has been equally adept everywhere, with a 2.97 ERA at home and 3.02 on the road. Opponents do have a .236 batting average on the road compared to .220 at Safeco, but scoring is almost identical with 3.27 runs on the road and 3.21 at Safeco.

Seattle's two best hitters -- Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager -- certainly haven't been bothered by Safeco Field, in part because the park continues to favor left-handed hitters. Cano has hit .326 with an .842 OPS, five home runs and 42 RBIs on the road compared to .316 with an .865 OPS, nine home runs and 35 RBIs at home.

Seager struggled at Safeco in the past, but this year he's hitting a robust .308 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs in Seattle vs. .240 with seven homers and 35 RBIs on the road.

The biggest negative home/road splits on the club belong to Justin Smoak (.148/.248), Michael Saunders (.228/.299), Kendrys Morales (.176/.244), Brad Miller (.186/.242) and Logan Morrison (.217/.273), though Morrison is an interesting case as he's hit seven of his eight home runs at Safeco.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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