NEW YORK -- The Mariners had almost as many complete games pitched in June this season as they had the past two seasons combined.
The first-to-last-pitch outing from right-hander Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night against the Yankees was the sixth CG of the month for the Seattle pitching staff. That is two more than the team had during the 2008 and '09 seasons.
Felix's gem came on the heels of a complete-game performance from left-hander Cliff Lee and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became only the third twosome to toss complete-game victories against the Yankees in back-to-back games in New York since 1985.
Roger Clemens and Al Nipper of the Red Sox did it in 1987, and the Angels' Mark Langston and Jim Abbott duplicated the feat in '91.
But using only one pitcher in consecutive games, and having five such games since June 18, can be a double-edged sword.
"Complete games are nice, because they rest your bullpen," manager Don Wakamatsu said on Thursday, "but when you get them in such succession, the bullpen is not getting used."
And how much is too much work and too little work?
Wakamatsu said he and his pitching coaches Rick Adair and John Wetteland pay close attention to their pitchers' workloads. Seattle relievers logged the fewest number of innings last season and had a league-low 171 innings going into Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Yankees.
Saunders' confidence grows with Mariners
NEW YORK -- A year ago, there was no way left-handed-hitting outfielder Michael Saunders would have started against one of the top left-handed starters in the Major Leagues.
But even with the Yankees sending ace CC Sabathia to the mound in Thursday afternoon's series finale at Yankee Stadium, Saunders was in the Mariners' lineup.
With most of the reserves batting left-handed and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez still bothered by flu-like symptoms, the options available to manager Don Wakamatsu for replacing Saunders with a right-handed bat were limited.
But he might not have gone that route anyway.
"We talk about Saunders' development," Wakamatsu said, "and at some point, he's going to have to face tough lefties, too. The way he has been swinging the bat, I think he'll be fine."
The bat Saunders swung on Wednesday night produced the first two-homer game of his MLB career.
He has hit seven home runs this season in 106 at-bats compared to no home runs in 122 at-bats in 2009.
"When you look at the overall numbers he's had this year, the power numbers are starting to climb up," Wakamatsu said, "but it also helps us when he gets on base and allows us to get back to the top of the lineup.
"We like the way he runs the bases. He has the ability to steal a base and does a good job of running the bases."
Saunders says self-confidence and playing almost every day has made a huge difference this season.
"A lot of people ask me what was the biggest difference between this callup and last year's callup," he said. "This time around, I'm a lot more confident coming in, and I try to not put too much pressure on myself to perform, try to come out every day I get the opportunity, play hard and have fun."
Michael Saunders became only the second rookie to have a two-home run game at new Yankee Stadium. The other was Travis Snider on Sept. 15, 2009. The only other Seattle rookie to accomplish the feat is Ken Griffey Jr., who hit two home runs off Jimmy Jones on May 30, 1989 at the old Yankee Stadium. ... Felix Hernandez is the first pitcher this season to shut out the Yankees in New York, lowering his ERA to 3.03. The Mariners already have three starters with sub-3.00 ERAs in Doug Fister (2.81), Jason Vargas (2.80) and Cliff Lee (2.45).
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.