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July 14, 2013 at 6:57 PM

Mariners head to break with first sweep of season in-hand

There have been so many sweep opportunities the Mariners let slide in the clinching game this year, a huge reason they have yet to win even four games in a row. But not today, as the Mariners held on for a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels and head to the all-star break nine games under .500.

They’ve hovered around that level for two months now and needed this improbable sweep to at least generate some momentum. There is no denying the team’s 8-5 record against the Rangers, Reds, Red Sox and now, the Angels, the past two weeks was impressive. So are the nearly six runs per game scored by the Mariners and the 48 runs in seven games this homestand.

But they waited until July to do it. Waited until they fell 12 games under .500 before finally sweeping a series.

The Mariners needed something big to happen this weekend if they wanted any realistic hope of even a .500 season. Well, they just got it. And they’ll need similar strong results once the break ends if they are to make a dent in those remaining nine games.

But certainly, this rates as a start.

“It’s a big win for us, especially going to the break,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s something we haven’t done this year. It’s hard to win a series, hard to sweep. And when you do that, you make up some ground.’’

And as I mentioned, there’s a lot to make up.

“A lot of good things have happened here,’’ Wedge said. “Not just in the last three days, but the last two or three weeks. And you can see where these guys are headed.’’

The Mariners hit another home run today and have gone deep in a franchise record 22 consecutive games. Michael Saunders hit the big blow today, a two-run homer in the second off Joe Blanton. Saunders is now 10-for-28 (.357) the past week and boy, does this team ever need him to get his game back to where ir’s supposed to be.

“We’re playing good baseball right now,’’ Saunders said. “One-through-nine in the batting order. Starting pitching and bullpen. We lost a tough series to Boston but we played good baseball. And then Anaheim came in here and we didn’t let that previous series get us down.’’

That’s true. The last two times the Mariners played the Angels, they suffered devastating letdowns. There was that series in May when they were blown out two games to extend their losing streak to an eventual eight. Then, last month, when they dropped three of four in Anaheim, including a finale in which they blew an 8-1 lead.

That didn’t happen this time. The Mariners put it away when they had a chance.

“We’ve been playing well as of late,’’ said Justin Smoak, hitting .386 this month. “We played well against Boston that last series, just weren’t able to get some ‘W’s there. But we’ve been swinging the bats and pitching well and you’ve seeing that on the field.’’

Now, we’ll see whether they can sustain those results after the break. If they can, folks will start viewing them a whole lot differently. We’ll have to see.

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