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SEA@BAL: Saunders throws six solid frames vs. Orioles

The Brewers and Mariners will begin a three-game set between teams that haven't faced each other in Seattle since Alex Rodriguez was a baby-faced 21-year-old and Ken Griffey Jr. was on his way to hitting 56 home runs and winning the American League MVP.

It's been 16 years since the Brewers visited Seattle. Milwaukee was still in the American League and Jeromy Burnitz was leading its offense.

Friday, the Brewers return for the first time as a National League club as they'll successfully check off every AL park since moving to the NL in 1998.

"This Interleague stuff, it's really nice," said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who is hoping to return from the disabled list at some point this weekend. "There are still some places in the American League I haven't been to."

Safeco Field is one place Ramirez, a 16-year veteran, has never been. He'll also get to visit Texas for the first time in his career when the Brewers head to Arlington after the series in Seattle. If he plays in both series, Ramirez will need only Oakland and Baltimore to complete his Major League circuit.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is familiar with the Mariners' park, having traveled there often during his 11-year stint on the Angels' coaching staff.

"It's a hard place to hit. It's a pitchers' ballpark," Roenicke said. "But it's a great city."

The season's second half has not been kind to the Mariners, who have dropped nine of their last 14 since an eight-game winning streak sandwiching the All-Star break.

Starting pitching has been at the core of the Mariners' struggles. Left-hander Joe Saunders, who worked in and out of trouble in his last start against Baltimore (allowing two runs in six innings for the win), gets a chance to turn that trend around on Friday against Kyle Lohse.

Saunders, who has won five of his last seven decisions, is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in two career starts against Milwaukee.

"This baseball season is long, there's going to be some hard times, there's going to be some bad games, there's going to be some good games," Saunders said. "Our job as a pitching staff is to keep us in the game, regardless of whether we have a lead, we're behind, whatever it is. Our job is to keep the score as low as possible."

While Seattle's starters have been struggling, Lohse enters Friday's opener on a roll. The right-hander has a 1.13 ERA in his last four starts, all Brewers victories, and allowed only one home run in those games after serving up three to the D-backs on July 13.

His last start wasn't quite as sharp, as Lohse allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings in a no-decision against the Nationals.

"Not every day is going to be easy, you're not going to get every pitch," said Lohse, who's lost only once since May 30. "You've just got to go out there and battle and give what you can to keep the team in the game. You keep it close long enough and give these guys a chance, some days it works out."

Brewers: Quantity of hamstring injuries puzzling
Rickie Weeks was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained left hamstring. Weeks will be the fourth Brewers player in the past 2 1/2 months to land on the DL with a hamstring injury.

The Brewers athletic training staff, which has been honored in recent years for the efforts in injury prevention, is puzzled.

"All injuries are a concern with them, but the same ones, especially being a muscle, that's what they're concerned about," Roenicke said. "Some things -- a guy runs into a wall and breaks his hand, or he gets hit by a foul ball and breaks a hand -- you can't do anything about those. But hamstrings, quads, obliques, those are the things you hope with training that you can limit those. You're going to have some of those, but we've had a lot."

While Ramirez was initially expected to be activated Friday and get the nod at designated hitter, Weeks' injury has complicated things a bit, since activating Ramirez would leave the Brewers short up the middle.

Instead, the Brewers recalled second baseman Scooter Gennett from Triple-A Nashville.

Mariners: Morales raking
The Mariners hit .214 (6-for-28) with runners in scoring position in their recently completed series against Blue Jays.

"It is what it is. We're going to go through our ups and downs in the season, but we try to stay as consistent as possible," outfielder Michael Saunders said. "We got kind of shut down the last couple games, but overall, we've been swinging the bats really well one through nine."

Worth noting
• The Brewers lead the Major Leagues with 102 stolen bases and have swiped more than 100 bags in consecutive seasons for the first time since they did in three straight from 1995-97.

• The Brewers (40-0) are the only team without a loss when leading after eight innings.

• Seattle designated hitter Kendrys Morales is 20-for-38 (.526) in his last nine games. He's hitting .384 since the All-Star break.

• Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has an eight-game hitting streak.

• The Mariners have hit an American League-high six grand slams this season.

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