When it comes to success at stealing bases, Mariners rookie James Jones echoes the words immortalized by Emil Faber: Knowledge is good.
Jones has 25 steals in 26 attempts for a 96.2 percent success rate that leads the majors. The key, he said, is, well, knowing the proper keys.
“I’m putting a lot of trust in the coaches and what they see,” Jones said. “I go on what I see also, but I’m trusting them a lot. There are keys with most pitchers. I just take as much information as they can give me.”
Jones’ success rate stands out because it is far better than he achieved in the minors — 101-for-146, or 69.2 percent. That includes a 7-for-10 mark this season in 37 games at Triple-A Tacoma.
“The scouting reports here are more in-depth,” Jones explained. “Plus in the minor leagues there is a lot of movement. If someone is doing well, they’re gone after a month or two.”
Sheer speed has never been an issue.
“Jonesy is a unique player,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s a very talented individual. He’s the type of guy who can steal a base when you know he’s going to steal it.
“Even if the pitcher is 1.2 (seconds) to the plate, he can still steal it.”
That situation surfaced Monday when Jones replaced Mike Zunino at first base with one out in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game against the Houston. Even against a left-hander, Tony Sipp, Jones stole second.
After Michael Saunders drew a walk, Jones produced another personality specialty by stealing third base. It marked the fifth time this season that he’s stolen second and third in the same inning.
“I am always looking to go to third,” Jones said. “I feel sometimes guys kind of settle down after you steal the first bag. If they have a slow time, I’ll steal third, and make it harder on them to throw off-speed.
“That helps the hitter out more.”
On cue, Miller followed with a two-run triple that spurred the Mariners to a 4-1 victory.
“I just think James has the knowledge and understanding that it’s a weapon for him,” McClendon said. “It’s something that is going to help him stay in the big leagues. That gives you a lot of motivation (to master the skill).”
Left fielder Dustin Ackley appears likely to be sidelined for at least a few more days after an MRI exam confirmed bone spurs are again causing problems in his left ankle.
Ackley left Saturday’s game at Texas because his ankle stiffened up and limited his mobility. He has long battled problems with bone spurs.
“It’s one of those things,” he said. “It might take a couple of days before it’s ready to go.”
McClendon confirmed Ackley is expected to be available within a “couple of days.” Ackley got off to a slow start this season but is batting .291 in 45 games since the All-Star break with seven homers and 31 RBIs.
Michael Saunders’ return from the disabled list, after an absence of nearly two months, provides the Mariners with a timely replacement for Ackley.
Saunders started Tuesday for the second consecutive game in right field. He reached base three times in four plate appearances — a single and two walks — in Monday’s victory over the Astros.
That marked Saunders’ first big-league game action since he suffered a strained left oblique on a July 11 swing against Minnesota. He was nearly ready to return in late August before he contracted a viral infection.
Saunders admitted Monday’s game “felt like Opening Day again.” He also said the crowd eased his return.
“I was telling myself that I have to calm down and relax,” he said, “that I’ve done this before. When I got into the box, and got a nice, little homecoming from the fans, it allowed me to relax a little bit.”
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez summed up his performance this way after getting a no-decision Monday when the Mariners opened their series against Houston with a 4-1 victory at Safeco Field.
“My command was not there,” he said, “but I made an adjustment. The change-up was bouncing too much. Sometimes it’s going to be like that. You’re not going to be ‘on’ every game.”
McClendon commented: “Felix battled all night. He had some strikeouts and he had some walks. He looked like he was a little bit out of rhythm.”
McClendon then acknowledged Hernandez is held — by himself and everyone else — to a different standard because: “In the end, he had six innings and no runs. That just shows you how great he is.”
Hernandez is 14-5 with a 2.12 ERA that ranks second among American League pitchers to the 2.09 by Chicago lefty Chris Sale.
Hernandez also ranks first among AL pitchers in batting average against (.200), second in innings (212) and fourth in strikeouts (217).
The Mariners’ seven affiliates finished with a cumulative 359-397 record for a .475 winning percentage that ranked 22nd among the 30 organizations.
The New York Mets had a best winning percentage at .568, followed by Arizona (.561), Texas (.546), St. Louis (.545) and Boston (.529).
Philadelphia ranked last at .434; Kansas City was last among AL teams at .450.
It was 13 years ago Wednesday — Sept. 10, 1991 — that the Mariners snapped what was then a club-record road losing streak of 13 games by rallying from a four-run deficit for a 5-4 victory at Toronto.
Harold Reynolds broke a 4-4 tie with a two-out RBI double in the eighth inning.
The current club record for consecutive road losses is 15 from June 22-July 28, 2004. The low point this season is six consecutive losses, as part of an eight-game overall skid, in April.
The Mariners and Astros conclude their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (14-6, 2.97 ERA) will oppose Houston right-hander Nick Tropeano, who is making his major-league debut. Tropeano was 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Root Sports will televise the game.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before opening a three-game weekend series against Oakland at Safeco Field.