But after a torrid nine-game road trip in which the center fielder went 19-for-39 (.487) with nine runs, five doubles, two home runs and five RBIs, Saunders raised his average from .224 to .277 entering Friday's contest against the Dodgers. But if you ask Saunders, he'll tell you that not much has changed from Opening Day.
"I think you just got to ... understand that you're going to have your stretches where you're 0-for-10, 0-for-15, and you're also going to have these stretches where you're going to pick up multiple-hit nights every night," he said. "I think you've just got to stay stable. If you get too high, this game will humble you real quick, and if you get too low, you continue to dig yourself deeper and deeper into a hole that you just can't get out of. I've experienced that the last few years."
"Even when the results weren't there for him, it wasn't really an indication of his at-bats, because I feel like he's put up good at-bats most of the year, and very consistently," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's been a tough out and he goes up there and gives himself a chance with each AB. Really pleased for him and with him.
"I think with Michael, yeah he's made a few adjustments, but I think the biggest separator for him is the mental part of the game. So really pleased and happy for him."
Saunders, who hired a personal hitting coach in the offseason, also credits his work on the mental aspect of the game as the biggest change. Reminding himself that there is always another game the next day has helped Saunders stay steady, whether successful or not.
It also helps to have a support system, he said. After misjudging a line drive that bounced off his face June 1 against the White Sox that led to three unearned runs and a Mariners loss, a call from his wife helped to put things in perspective.
"There's been many quotes that this game's played more between the ears than it is physical," Saunders said. "I think it's just a mindset. You've got to have a short memory in this game. Obviously it's good to ride your hot streaks, but when you do go bad, and it does happen -- it happens to the best players to play this game -- you've got to have a short memory and know you get to come back here the next night."