Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Bad luck? Nasty funk? Lack of clutch hits adding up

There’s often nothing so complicated as a simple truth.

Asked what his club must do to be more productive with runners in scoring position, Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon shot back: “Get more hits!”

True enough.

The Mariners remain mired in a season-long slump with runners in scoring position. Entering the weekend, their .222 batting average in such situations was better than only one American League club: Boston.

That played out too in Thursday’s series opener, which the Red Sox won, 2-1, despite going 0 for 7 with RISP. The Mariners were 0 for 6 — and they want to believe their collective unclutchiness is merely cyclical.

“As a team, there’s nothing you can do,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “Sometimes when there are men in scoring position, you hit a ball hard right at guys. You’ve just got to stay positive.

“Things like this happen. They happen to every team. You’ve just got to be ready for the next day. I see a lot of guys hitting balls good. All you can do is just keep swinging and just keep battling.”

That includes Cano, who entered Friday 7 for 35 with RISP, a .200 average that is 84 points below his career mark.

“Sometimes,” he said, “it’s just bad luck. There’s nothing you can do in that situation. All you can do is hit the ball. You can’t hang your head.”

McClendon continues to preach patience in the belief the law of averages will inevitably produce a turnaround.

“It happens to every team,” he said, “and it’s a nasty funk to be in. There’s a positive and a negative to it. You’re getting guys out there. The negative thing is we’re not getting them in. It can be frustrating.

“It happens to every team, but when it happens to you, you take it personal.”

MILLER AT SHORT

Part of Brad Miller’s new duties as a super utilityman involve occasional time at his old position.

Miller started Friday at shortstop when McClendon opted to rest Chris Taylor, who is batting .143 in eight games since his May 4 recall from Triple-A Tacoma.

“Just giving (Taylor) a day (off),” McClendon said. “His neck is a little stiff as well. He hasn’t gotten off to a good start, but we know he’s capable of doing better than what he’s done to this point.”

McClendon also chose to bench outfielder Dustin Ackley even though the Red Sox started a right-handed pitcher in Clay Buchholz. Justin Ruggiano started in center field; his first start since May 6.

While Ackley is batting .191, he had hits in five straight games before going 0 for 4 in Thursday’s loss.

“Ackley just hasn’t hit the ball the way he’s capable of hitting it,” McClendon said. “We’re just trying something different. Seeing if some of these other guys can jump-start us at the bottom of the order, get us going.”

IWAKUMA UPDATE

Friday marked one week since the Mariners shut down former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma from all throwing because of ongoing tightness in his strained back muscle.

Plans call for Iwakuma to be re-examined Monday in the hope that he can resume throwing within a week — but club officials are increasingly bracing for him to be sidelined for an extended period, perhaps until after the All-Star break in mid-July.

Iwakuma, 34, was 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three starts before suffering a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle in his day-after throwing program following an April 20 start.

Prior to this season, Iwakuma was 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA in three years since signing with the Mariners as a free agent after spending 11 seasons in Japan’s Pacific League with Kintetsu and Rakuten.

JACKSON IMPROVING

Injured outfielder Austin Jackson tested his sprained right ankle in an early workout by running in the outfield. Jackson’s workout included a series of starts/stops and direction changes.

Barring a setback, Jackson could depart on a minor league rehab assignment within the next few days. Jackson suffered the injury May 3 while running out a ground ball at Houston.

TURN BACK THE CLOCK

The Mariners and Red Sox will pay homage to the Negro Leagues by wearing 1946 replica uniforms Saturday as part of African American Heritage Night at Safeco Field.

Honorees include former NBA players Bill Russell and Fred Brown, singer Bill Withers, former King County executive Ron Sims, former Huskies football player George Fleming and business executive Art Harper.

The Mariners will wear the uniforms of the Seattle Steelheads, while the Red Sox will be dressed as the Boston Royal Giants.

There will be a tribute to Herb Simpson, who died in January at age 94. He was last known surviving member of the Steelheads.

MINOR DETAILS

First baseman D.J. Peterson, the organization’s No. 2 prospect, shows some signs of heating up at Double-A Jackson after a slow start.

Peterson, 23, entered the weekend with a .302 average over his last 16 games while boosting his season mark to .236.

Even so, there are ongoing concerns.

Peterson has just one homer and six extra-base hits in 29 games for the Generals after delivering 31 homers and 63 extra-base hits last season in 123 games at High-A High Desert and Jackson.

He also has 30 strikeouts in 110 at-bats, including 20 in 63 at-bats over his 16-game surge.

LOOKING BACK

It was 26 years ago Saturday — May 16, 1989 — that Ken Griffey Jr., serving as a pinch hitter for the first time in his career, hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning in a 6-5 victory over Milwaukee at the Kingdome.

A 19-year-old rookie, Griffey batted for Mickey Brantley against Bill Wegman with Darnell Coles at first base in a 4-4 game. Griffey drove the ball deep over the right-center field wall.

Griffey hit six of his 630 career homers in his 92 at-bats as a pinch-hitter in his 22-year career.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Red Sox continue their four-game series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (6-0, 1.85 ERA) will face Boston right-hander Rick Porcello (3-2, 4.50).

The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.

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