Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: New-look lineup paying big dividends

Seattle’s Robinson Cano, pictured, has combined with Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano to give the Marinerrs’ batting order a ‘Big Three’ in the second through fifth spots in the batting order.
Seattle’s Robinson Cano, pictured, has combined with Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano to give the Marinerrs’ batting order a ‘Big Three’ in the second through fifth spots in the batting order. The Associated Press

It’s been 17 games now since Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon “threw something against the wall one day and said, ‘Let’s put Robby fourth’” prior to a game in Detroit.

Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but the Mariners’ “Big Three” are thriving in the readjusted lineup. Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano are batting a combined .338 with 42 runs, 14 doubles, 15 homers and 36 RBIs in that span.

“I’ve always wanted to put Seager in the two hole,” McClendon said. “The secret to that is making sure you have someone who can get on base in the leadoff spot because he’s a fastball hitter.”

McClendon believes he’s found that leadoff hitter in rookie Ketel Marte, whom the Mariners recalled July 31 from Triple-A Tacoma. Marte batted leadoff Wednesday for the fifth time in six games.

“I don’t think (Marte will be overmatched) because he has the ability to bunt,” McClendon said. “His speed will play and get him hits when he’s not swinging very well. I want to see what he can do in the leadoff spot.”

The switch moved Seager from fifth to second in the order, which prompted McClendon to flip Cruz and Cano in the three/four slots in order to put Cruz’s right-handed bat between the two lefties.

“I think we have a two, three and four who are locked in for the foreseeable future,” McClendon said. “I don’t see it changing. … We just need to get this leadoff thing straightened out, and we may be doing even better than we are.”

ONE MORE TIME

Lefty Vidal Nuno will get at least one more spot start, but McClendon still views him as a better fit in the bullpen.

“I don’t see him in the rotation permanently as we speak right now,” McClendon said. “I just don’t see it.”

Nuno gave up three runs and five hits in 32/3 innings Tuesday in a 10-4 victory over the Rockies. It was his first start of the season after 18 relief outings since joining the Mariners in a June 3 trade from Arizona.

Current plans call for Nuno to start again Monday when the Mariners open a three-game series against Baltimore at Safeco Field.

IN A PINCH

It only seems that Franklin Gutierrez always comes through as a pinch-hitter. Actually, his two-run single in Tuesday’s 10-4 victory over Colorado was just his second hit in seven pinch-hit at-bats.

But …

Gutierrez’s single broke a 3-3 tie, and his other pinch hit was a grand slam July 21 that erased a two-run deficit in an 11-9 victory at Detroit. No other player with 10 or fewer pinch at-bats has more than four RBIs.

“I’m just trying to have a good approach at the plate,” he said. “And trying to make contact. That’s it. That’s pretty much what I’m doing.”

Gutierrez, 32, went 3 for 5 with a two-run homer in Wednesday’s loss and is batting .299 overall in 65 at-bats over 26 games since returning to the big leagues June 24.

The Mariners still have to monitor his playing time. Gutierrez missed all of last season and continues to battle ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine.

“He’s got a beautiful swing,” McClendon said. “He really does. He stays inside the ball. Never panics. Has the ability to slow the moment down. He’s done it time and time again.”

FIVE-GAME RUN

Cruz’s consecutive-game homer streak ended at five games when he went 2 for 5 with a double in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss in 11 innings to the Rockies. He also had a five-game streak from April 11-15.

The only other player with a five-game homer streak this season in Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, who did it from May 31 to June 3.

The last player to have multiple five-game homer streaks in the same season was Philadelphia’s Chase Utley in 2008.

Only three other players accomplished it in the past 45 years: Harmon Killebrew with Minnesota in 1970, Frank Thomas with the Chicago White Sox in 1994 and Barry Bonds with San Francisco in 2001.

Cruz has 31 homers overall, which puts him on pace to finish with a career-high of 46. His previous high was a major-league-leading 40 last year while playing for Baltimore.

MINOR DETAILS

Single-A Everett left-hander Luiz Gohara pitched 21/3 scoreless innings Tuesday and got the victory as the Northwest League All-Stars beat the Pioneer League, 6-5, in Spokane.

Gohara, 19, entered the season ranked No. 8 on the The News Tribune’s Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.

Two AquaSox started for the Northwest League. Shortstop Drew Jackson went 1 for 2 with a run scored. Left fielder Logan Taylor went hitless in four at-bats.

LOOKING BACK

It was 38 years ago Thursday — Aug. 6, 1978 — that Ruppert Jones hit the first inside-the-park homer in Kingdome history.

Jones circled the bases on a two-out drive to center in the seventh inning against Sparky Lyle in a 9-2 victory over the New York Yankees.

SHORT HOPS

Cruz extended his hitting streak to 16 games. His career best is 19 games in 2010 while playing for Texas. … Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush reported no problems after throwing a 41-pitch bullpen session in the latest step in his recovery from biceps tendinitis. He is expected to begin a minor-league rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma. … Mark Trumbo went 1 for 3 with a walk and is batting .341 (30 for 88) over his past 26 games. … The Mariners suffered their eighth walk-off loss of the season, which matches Tampa Bay for the most among American League clubs. The Rays also had their eighth walk-off loss Wednesday.

ON TAP

The Mariners have an open date Thursday before starting a six-game homestand with the first of three weekend games against Texas at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2, 4.47 ERA) will face Rangers lefty Cole Hamels (6-7, 3.76). Texas acquired Hamels last week from Philadelphia.

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