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Saunders getting chances at No. 2 in lineup

SEATTLE -- Michael Saunders is making a strong case for himself as the No. 2 hitter in the Mariners lineup as the 27-year-old right fielder has hit .462 with seven runs, nine RBIs and four extra-base hits in seven games in that spot going into Tuesday night's contest with the Angels.

Manager Lloyd McClendon had Saunders sandwiched between leadoff man James Jones and No. 3 hitter Robinson Cano again Tuesday and indicated that top of the order likely will get more time going forward.

"Saunders also did a nice job in the leadoff spot for us," he said. "But with Jones leading off, we tried him a little lower in the lineup and it hasn't worked as well. So for the foreseeable future, he'll probably be in the two-hole."

Saunders says it helps to have the speedy Jones in front of him to create concerns for pitchers when he gets on base. And having Cano behind him means he's getting good pitches to hit as opponents certainly aren't looking to walk him and face Cano.

McClendon agrees that all makes a difference.

"I think it has a lot to do with the guy hitting in front of him," said McClendon. "And the guy behind him, too, but the guy in front of him can run a little. Anytime you take a little concentration away from the pitcher, it's going to help."

With Jones and Cano both being left-handed hitters, McClendon had been moving Saunders out of the two spot in favor of a right-hander when facing southpaws in order to balance the lineup better. But on Monday, he stuck with Saunders in the two-spot against lefty Tyler Skaggs and he went 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs.

Saunders feels he hits lefties just as well as right-handers and he's backed that up with a .313 average and .770 OPS against southpaws compared with a .259 average and .717 OPS this year against right-handers.

"When I face lefties, it actually helps me stay closed and keep my front shoulder in there," he said. "I've never really had too big of a problem in my career. I don't get uncomfortable or feel like I need to pull off the baseball. If anything, it actually helps me keep my front shoulder in there and stay on pitches."

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