Nelson Cruz now knows what it’s like to have a pain in the neck and not just be one to opposing clubs.
Cruz got the day off Wednesday when the Mariners closed out their three-game series against Baltimore because of a stiff neck that forced his departure from Tuesday’s 6-5 victory after six innings.
The Mariners switched to Franklin Gutierrez to fill Cruz’s spot as the lineup’s No. 3 hitter. Cruz is expected to return to duty for Friday’s game against Boston at Fenway.
Cruz characterized his neck as “better” when he entered the clubhouse prior to Wednesday’s game but still turned his shoulders, rather than turning his neck, when he shifted positions.
“He’s not quite 100 percent,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and we’re going to give him today and tomorrow (Thursday, an open date) to get healthy.”
Cruz’s injury stripped the game’s hottest hitter from the Mariners’ lineup. He took a 21-game hitting streak to the bench, along with the major-league lead in homers (34) and hits (140).
His 21-game hitting streak is a career best and tied for the longest of the season by any player. Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had a 21-game run earlier this year while playing for Colorado.
Cruz’s streak is the longest by a Mariner since outfielder Ichiro Suzuki set the franchise record with a 27-game run in 2009. Cruz’s 34 homers are the most by a Mariner since Richie Sexson finished 2006 with 34.
Cruz is also closing in the record for homers by Mariner since 2000, which was the club’s first full season at Safeco Field. Alex Rodriguez holds that record with 41 in 2000, which was his last season with the club.
Sexson ranks second with 39 in 2005.
Cruz is currently on pace to finish with a career-best 48 homers. His previous high was 40, which he hit last season in leading the majors while playing for Baltimore.
Maybe Brad Miller hits best when he’s not the full-time shortstop.
Miller has six multi-hit games and is batting .366 (15-for-41) since July 28, which roughly coincides with Ketel Marte’s arrival from Triple-A Tacoma. Miller had six extra-base hots and eight RBIs in that span.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but Miller was the American League’s player of the week for May 11-17, which came during Chris Taylor’s month-long run as the starting shortstop.
Miller started Wednesday in left field. His recent surge boosted his average from .234 to .251.
While the Mariners’ rotation is in place for this weekend in Boston, don’t be surprised if McClendon uses two upcoming open dates in an eight-game span to find additional rest for Taijuan Walker and/or Mike Montgomery.
“We’re going to look at it,” McClendon said, “just like we did this time around when we inserted (Hisashi) Iwakuma (ahead of Montgomery). We’ll look at the match-ups and then decide what we want to do.”
McClendon previously confirmed the Mariners are monitoring innings for Walker and Montgomery. Both are expected to hit their targeted ceilings by mid-September.
The Mariners have won three straight series since the first time since a four-series run in August 2014. They have won two of three from Colorado, Texas and now Baltimore. … Hisashi Iwakuma is 4-1 with a 3.05 ERA in eight starts since returning July 6 from a 2 1/2-month stay on the disabled list. … Iwakuma did not have a complete game in 87 career starts before Wednesday’s no-hitter. … The five no-hitters in Mariners’ history were handled by five different catchers: Scott Bradley, Dave Valle, Jesus Montero, John Jaso and Jesus Sucre. … The last three no-hitters in American League stadiums took place at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before opening a three-game weekend series against Red Sox at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time at Fenway Park in Boston.
Left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.25) will face Red Sox lefty Joe Kelly (4-6, 5.96).
The six-game trip concludes next week with three games at Texas.