Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ losing record could hurt Cruz’s MVP chances

Seattle’s Nelson Cruz has statistical numbers that compare to top players in the American League but the Mariners’ losing record could play a factor in the MVP voting.
Seattle’s Nelson Cruz has statistical numbers that compare to top players in the American League but the Mariners’ losing record could play a factor in the MVP voting. The Associated Press

Nelson Cruz’s first-inning RBI single Wednesday extended his streak of reaching base to 36 consecutive games — longest in the American League. Cruz also leads the league with 39 home runs, and is second in hits with 154.

While such numbers make a strong case for a Most Valuable Player candidacy, the Mariners’ absence from the playoff race will work against the 35-year old veteran. Only five MVP winners played for teams with a losing record — Ernie Banks (1958-59 Cubs), Andre Dawson (1987 Cubs), Cal Ripken Jr. (1991 Orioles) and Alex Rodriguez (2003 Rangers).

“I think he should get some MVP consideration,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said before his team’s homestand finale Wednesday. “Obviously, where we are in the standings will probably hurt him somewhat. But this guy shows up every day and competes. What he’s done is remarkable.

“He’s been a complete hitter — he’ll hit doubles, take a single, and he’s done well in RBI situations, well over .300. And he’s played a pretty decent right field for us.”

Cruz’s numbers —- he finished Wednesday with a slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) of .321/.390/.615 — stand up to those of the front-runners in the MVP race, the Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson (.300/.369/.581) and the Angels’ Mike Trout (.297/.394/.583).

But “valuable” is a subjective term to voters, and in the event of a photo finish, a player on a winning team almost always gets the benefit of the doubt over a player on a non-contender.

ROTATION ADJUSTMENT

McClendon changed his plan for left-hander Vidal Nuno to start the road-trip opener against the White Sox in Chicago. Roenis Elias will pitch Thursday night, with Nuno pushed back to the swing role of spot starter/long reliever.

Elias is 4-6 with a 4.22 ERA during what has been a mostly disappointing season for the second-year lefty. A 10-game winner for the Mariners in 2014, Elias has split time between Seattle and Tacoma.

He’ll be followed in the rotation by Taijuan Walker on Friday and Hisashi Iwakuma on Saturday. Mike Montgomery is scheduled to start Sunday, but the rookie has struggled since the All-Star break.

Asked about Montgomery’s status in the rotation, McClendon admitted he’s not sure.

“I just woke up,” he said.

MUSICAL CHAIRS LINEUP

Brad Miller, who has started 81 games at shortstop, made his second start in center field Wednesday. Rookie Ketel Marte replaced Miller at short.

It’s not a long-term blueprint, merely a chance to evaluate if Miller and Marte might be better off trading places.

“Miller’s very athletic,” said McClendon, noting that the infielder’s potential to play center is “intriguing.”

As for Marte, the manager said, “he’s coming along just fine. He’s got a ways to go, he makes mistakes here and there, but he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player.”

LOOKING BACK

It was 16 years ago — Aug. 27, 1999 —that starter Jeff Fassero was traded to Texas for a player to be named (minor-league outfielder Adrian Myers). Fassero was mired in the worst stretch of his career — he was 4-14, with a 7.38 ERA, at the time of the trade — but the playoff-bound Rangers were desperate for left-handed pitching.

Myers played for the Tacoma Rainiers in 2001 and 2003 but never reached the majors.

ON TAP

The Mariners open a four-game series against the White Sox in Chicago at 5:10 p.m. (PDT) Thursday.Elias (4-6, 4.22 ERA) will face rookie lefty Carlos Rodon (5-5, 4.22).

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