CINCINNATI — The young Seattle Mariners are glad to be going home after a solid road trip.
Joe Saunders pitched seven efficient innings and Nick Franklin and Justin Smoak each homered to lift the Mariners to a 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Seattle won four of six on its brief road swing, taking two of three against both Texas and Cincinnati.
“It was a real good road trip,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “You play Texas team that has 50 wins on the road and here the same thing. It’s fun to see the light come on with the younger guys.”
Franklin hit Arroyo’s 10th pitch of the game 380 feet into the right field seats for his sixth home run of the season and second in the first inning in three games. He hit a two-run homer on Friday off of Mike Leake, also in the first inning.
Smoak extended the lead to 3-0 with a two-run drive into the left field seats on the first pitch he saw from Arroyo with two outs in the third inning. The 378-foot shot, which followed Kyle Seager’s one-out walk, was Smoak’s seventh.
The Mariners got key home runs in the first inning of all three games. Franklin hit a two-run home run off Mike Leake on Friday. Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer off Mat Latos Saturday. Franklin’s solo home run Sunday got Seattle off to a fast start.
“I was down two strikes just trying to make contact the best I can,” said Franklin, the Mariners’ first pick in the 2009. The second baseman’s contract was selected from Tacoma on May 27.
Smoak added to the lead to allow the veteran Saunders room to work.
“Smoak is one of those that the light is coming on. To drive the ball the other way, shows he is getting better,” Wedge said.
Smoak is more concerned with driving in runners in scoring position than home runs.
“It’s been dreadful getting runners home from scoring position,” Smoak said. “That’s number one for me. I feel great at the plate but it I need to get those guys across home plate.”
The third-year first baseman was hitting .133 with runners in scoring position when the game started.
A day after the Reds scored 13 runs, they managed just six hits and a run off Saunders. The left-hander allowed only two base runners to reach third in the first six innings and retired 11 consecutive batters before Chris Heisey doubled into the left field corner with one out in the fifth inning.
Saunders (7-8) walked none and struck out two while winning back-to-back starts for the first time this season.
“I felt good,” Saunders said. “They (Reds) have some guys that can hurt you so you have to keep the ball down,” Saunders said.
Charlie Furbush pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Tom Wilhelmsen was perfect in the ninth for his 18th save, helping the Mariners improve to 10-2 against the Reds since interleague play began in 1997.
The Reds went down in order in six of their nine innings.
The Reds broke up the shutout bid in the seventh with back-to-back one-out doubles by Todd Frazier and Heisey before Saunders finished his day by getting Ryan Hanigan and pinch-hitter Derrick Robinson to ground out.
“Heisey hit a good pitch,” Saunders said. “(Pitching coach) Carl (Willis) came out and just said, ‘refocus and keep the ball down.’ That’s what I did. I used my sinker.”
Bronson Arroyo (7-7) overcame a 32-pitch first inning to complete six, allowing five hits and three runs with one walk and six strikeouts. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
Neither Arroyo nor his manager Dusty Baker were surprised by the show of power by the youthful Mariners.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Arroyo said. “They had a bunch of unknown guys. We don’t see a lot of the American League, especially the West. They came out and hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
“We knew coming in that that would be a key,” Baker said. “Home runs are a big part of their offense. We couldn’t get anything going. We hit the ball a lot harder than the scorebook showed. We didn’t have a lot to show for it.”
MARINERS NOTES: Franklin’s home run was the club-record 235th allowed by Arroyo in his eight seasons with the Reds. He went into the game tied with former LHP Tom Browning for the record. … It was the Mariners’ 22nd first-inning homer this season, most in the majors. … Raul Ibanez extended his hitting streak to 12 games (18 for 50, .360) with a first-inning single to left. … After going 4-2 on their road trip, the Mariners are scheduled to open a seven-game homestand with four against Boston. All-Star pitchers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are the Mariners’ projected starters on Monday and Tuesday.