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Mariners making effective use of the bunt

Mariners making effective use of the bunt

SEATTLE -- The Mariners will once again be saddled with a tough task on Sunday when they face Tigers rookie Rick Porcello, a pitcher with explosive stuff who misses bats.

But Seattle will be ready with its secret, or, as it turns out, not-so-secret weapon -- the bunt.

The Mariners won't lead the American League in home runs anytime soon, but they built their current roster around the little things and are flourishing with the approach so far.

The Mariners have recorded five sacrifice bunts over their last six games and have nine in their first 12 games this season. They lead the AL with nine sacrifice bunts -- the Angels are second with four -- and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is leading the league with four sacrifice bunts, already tying the club record for the month of April.

Also, the Mariners have three bunt singles this year, which is tied for tops in the AL. Mariners outfielder Endy Chavez leads the league with two bunt base hits.

Behind all of this bunting is one proud manager, Don Wakamatsu.

"I think it's more about just trying to do what we're good at, and obviously if we're successful, we'll keep doing it," Wakamatsu said. "We talk about pressurizing the defense, moving players frlom base to base and putting us in a situation to drive them in, which we've been good at."

Everyone's been getting in on the bunting action, it seems.

Catcher Rob Johnson, for example, dropped down a perfect sac bunt in Friday's game, which the Mariners took control of in the fifth inning with two key bunts.

"There's a lot of guys on this team who can bunt," Johnson said. "Ichiro [Suzuki], Gutierrez, Chavez, [Yuniesky] Betancourt, [Ronny] Cedeno and myself. I can bunt a little bit, too, so it's awesome. It's such a big part of the game."

For Wakamatsu, it will continue to be a big part of the game.

"It's hard to defend," he said. "These guys are bunting extremely well. ... It's baseball. I don't think it's 'small ball' or anything else. If we can advance a guy, it's important. If it puts a guy in scoring position, one hit as opposed to two hits allows us to score.

"Will we play different in different ballparks? Probably, depending on if the wind's blowing out or who we're facing, but it's nice to be able to go into a game and put ourselves into a position where we can utilize tools."

Pitching matchup
SEA: RHP Carlos Silva (0-1, 6.00 ERA)
Silva had his best outing in several months, holding the Angels to two runs over seven innings in the Mariners' home opener. Unfortunately for him, the Mariners also scored two runs while he was on the mound, so he had to settle for a no-decision. The good news is he had command of the strike zone and kept the ball down most of the time, resulting in just six outfield putouts.

DET: RHP Rick Porcello (0-1, 7.20 ERA)
Porcello's Major League debut Thursday at Toronto turned on a pair of home runs that sent him to defeat. However, he still gave a good look at the poise and pitching acumen that convinced the Tigers he could handle the jump from Class A ball to the Majors at the age of 20. He was originally slated to make his followup start at home Tuesday against the White Sox, but the rainout prompted the Tigers to push him back to the weekend series and back on the road. The move not only kept Detroit's top three starts in line, it gave the Tigers a chance to conserve innings on their young starter, who pitched just 125 innings last year at Lakeland.

Tidbits
First baseman Russell Branyan sat out Saturday's game and might miss Sunday's game after suffering a "tweak" of his back on a slide into home plate during Friday night's game, according to Wakamatsu, who added that the flareup is looking "not to be too serious. We'll give him a day off and reevaluate him tomorrow," Wakamatsu said. ... Wakamatsu was still smiling about Ken Griffey Jr.'s mad dash home to score standing up from first base on Adrian Beltre's double on Friday night. "I told him, I said he tried to go 'Invisible Man' there," Wakamatsu said. "No one could see him. Again, it's neat to be able to watch the dugout and the players' reactions to him coming all the way around and scoring is priceless." ... Relievers David Aardsma (5 2/3 innings pitched), Mark Lowe (4 1/3 IP), Shawn Kelley (4 IP) and Sean White (2 IP) have yet to allow an earned run this season.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN

On radio
• 710 ESPN

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Mariners (Jarrod Washburn, 2-0, 1.29) vs. Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 0-1, 6.52), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Mariners (Chris Jakubauskas, 1-1, 3.86) vs. Rays (Jeff Niemann, 0-2, 6.35), 7:10 p.m. PT

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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