The good news for the Seattle Mariners is they’re winning games.
They’re close, they’re low scoring, but they’re wins.
The Mariners haven’t scored more than three runs in any of their past five games, and looking further back, they’ve scored more than three twice in their past nine games.
Little coincidence in this is who’s missing. Dee Gordon is halfway through his stay on the 10-day disabled list, though Mariners manager Scott Servais insists Gordon will not miss more than the 10 days despite having a fractured right big toe.
Of course, their No. 3 hitter, Robinson Cano, is also out with an 80-game drug suspension.
But Gordon is the tone-setter. The Mariners (30-20) are 22-10 in games he’s had a hit. In the four games without him entering Saturday they had averaged 2.25 runs per game, and in the 46 previous games Seattle averaged 4.59 runs.
“Certainly you miss Dee at the top of the lineup,” Servais said. “But, more importantly, we haven’t swung the bat that well. We’ve been very timely with our hitting, which is sometimes more important than hitting well.
“But we haven’t been consistent in the middle of our lineup.”
They entered Sunday with Nelson Cruz in a slump that had him batting .225 and Kyle Seager was hitting .224.
And Servais said after the Mariners’ 2-1 win over the Twins on Friday – which earned them their major-league leading 14th one-run victory – that they need Cruz to get out of his funk and have a big home stand.
“Nellie will get it going again,” Servais said. “He’s had too big of a track record here. But it starts with the little things. It doesn’t start with a two- or three-homer night. It’s a base hit here, taking a ball the other way. Nellie has hit the ball hard, just in the ground lately.”
He did have a run-scoring single Friday, but that was Cruz’s first RBI since May 12 and he hadn’t hit a home run since May 3. Mind you, he led the American League in RBI last season.
“I’ve felt much better the past few days,” Cruz said. “I feel like it’s coming.”
But at some point the Mariners figure to get more consistency up and down their lineup. They won’t be at full strength for a long while, not with Cano’s suspension. The Mariners hope things stabilize once Gordon returns, even if they don’t believe he’ll be at 100 percent.
In the meantime it’s been lineup roulette. Guillermo Heredia is batting second and he’s hit sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth this year. Mitch Haniger has hit second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Ryon Healy has hit fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth. Mike Zunino and Ben Gamel have hit sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth and Jean Segura has been thrust from second into the leadoff spot, where he hit all of last season.
Servais doesn't think the changing lineup is an issue.
“I would hope not,” he said. “As long as they’re in the lineup. Guys have moved around in the lineup but Haniger has done a great job no matter where we put him. I would hope it wouldn’t affect guys.
“It’s a combination of things. We just haven’t scored a lot of runs.”
But the Mariners have compensated with a dominant pitching staff and bullpen. Their club ERA is 3.22 since April 24, which was second-best in the American League since then behind the Houston Astros (2.52).
The Mariners entered Saturday with eight wins when they score three runs or fewer – that was tied with the most in the majors with the Oakland Athletics.
Colome and Span
Where are the new guys?
Right-hander Alex Colome wasn’t expected to join the Mariners’ active roster until Sunday’s series finale against the Twins, and outfielder Denard Span likely won’t play until Monday’s game against the Texas Rangers, Servais said.
Major league baseball’s collective bargaining agreement states that all in-season air travel shall be nonstop and that players have 72 hours to report to their new teams. Colome and Span were acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, but there’s few nonstop flights from Tampa International Airport to SeaTac.
Plus, Span is from Tampa, Florida. So he’s needed more time to get his family situated.
“We’re looking forward to getting him here,” Servais said. “I think he’s going to be a great addition to our team. Our players I know are excited about having those two guys. When they get here we’ll plug them right in.”
Gordon took ground balls on Friday and took batting practice Saturday in his recovery from a fractured toe. Servais said Gordon should be ready and activated off the 10-day disabled list by Thursday.
“Dee is feeling much better – he’s getting louder and talking a little bit more,” he joked.
But how about right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma?
Yes, that Iwakuma, who hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since May 3, 2017. The 31-year-old apparently threw all of his pitches, Servais said, in a bullpen session Friday and will advance to facing live batting practice on Tuesday in his recovery from offseason shoulder debridement surgery.
“Really good bullpen yesterday,” Servais said. “I know he was encouraged by it. Really dialed up the intensity in it.
“Mel (Stottlemyre Jr., the Mariners’ pitching coach) was really encouraged by it and now you got to try to create some more volume on top of it and see where it goes from there. He’s moving in the right direction again.”
Iwakuma felt discomfort in his arm the last time he threw against live batting practice and they shut him down, moving him back to bullpen sessions.
The Mariners’ complete their three-game series against the Twins with right-hander Mike Leake (4-3, 5.46 ERA) starting against right-hander Jose Berrios (5-4, 3.82 ERA) in the 1:10 p.m. Sunday game at Safeco Field.
The game will televise on Root Sports and broadcast on 710-AM radio.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677