It’s no surprise that center fielder Leonys Martin returned Saturday to the Mariners’ lineup after a one-day rest.
Just check the numbers" Martin was 4-for-5 with three doubles and a walk in six previous plate appearances against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco.
Martin sat out Friday’s 5-1 loss in the series opener because manager Scott Servais believed he needed an early-season break after going 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts over the four games in Houston.
"He made a few adjustments (at the plate) coming into spring," Servais said. "All players want to continue to add to their game, but I think it’s important that they don’t get away from what they do well."
Friday presented a good opportunity for a break because Martin was just 1-for-10 in his career against Angels starter Jesse Chavez. None of the Mariners did much Friday against Chavez in his 5 2/3 innings.
Martin was among those who took part Saturday in early batting practice, and the results were encouraging.
"He started getting his hands up a little higher," Servais said. "He’s got some kind of bat speed. He was rocketing balls 10-12 rows deep in the right-field bleachers. We haven’t seen t hat all spring.
"It’s the best session he’s had in a while. Is it going to translate into tonight’s game? I don’t know. But the tools are still there."
Martin agreed: "It’s coming. I can feel it. I’ve been here before."
Expect Martin to start again Sunday no matter what happens Saturday. He is 8-for-19 in his career against Angels starter Matt Shoemaker.
NOT CASHING IN
The Mariners entered Saturday at 4-for-43 through five games with runners in scoring position. Not coincidentally, two of those hits came Thursday when they scored twice in the ninth inning for their only victory.
If that seems like a lot of missed chances…it is. Only Tampa Bay had more at-bats through Friday, with 44, with runners in scoring position. The Rays have 12 hits.
The Mariners’ .093 average with RISP is the worst in the majors. Interestingly, the second-worst is Houston, which won three of four from the Mariners, at .107.
"We’re near the top in opportunities," Servais said, "so we’re going to go positive. If we keep getting them out there then, eventually, the dam will break loose."
Saturday was Felix Hernandez’s 31st birthday, and it marked the 23rd time in franchise history that a pitcher started on his birthday. Hernandez is the 19th different pitcher to do it.
The last Mariners pitcher to start on his birthday was lefty Roenis Elias on Aug. 1, 2014 in a 2-1 loss at Baltimore. The last Mariners pitcher to win a start on his birthday was Hisashi Iwakuma on April 12, 2013 in a 3-1 victory at Texas.
Scott Bankhead started three straight years on 1987-89 on his birthday (July 31). He went 0-2 with a no-decision.
Three things to note heading into Sunday’s pitching matchup between Hisashi Iwakuma and LA’s Matt Shoemaker:
***Iwakuma is 9-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 19 career games against the Angels, including 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine games at Angel Stadium. Shoemaker is 4-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 career games against the Mariners.
***Leonys Martin is 8-for-19 (.421) in his career against Shoemaker, while Nelson Cruz is 7-for-21 with two homers, and Kyle Seager is 7-for-24 with two homers. Mike Zunino has just one hit in 16 at-bats but has been hit three times.
***Iwakuma has been particularly effective against Mike Trout (9-for-48) and Albert Pujols (8-for-54), but has yielded eight hits in 20 at-bats to Yunel Escobar.
Rehabbing right-hander Tony Zych threw 16 pitches Friday in the first inning for Triple-A Tacoma a Sacramento (Giants) before rain forced the game to be suspended.
Zych has one strikeout and allowed two singles. He is recovering from October surgery for a biceps tendon transfer after missing most of last season because of an ailing shoulder. He could rejoin the Mariners on the upcoming homestand.
***Right-hander Max Povse pitched seven shutout innings Friday in Double-A Arkansas’ 6-1 victory over visiting Corpus Christi (Astros). Povse permitted just two hits while striking out five and walking one.
The Mariners acquired Povse, 23, from Atlanta with pitcher Rob Whalen in a Nov. 28 trade for outfielder Alex Jackson and pitcher Tyler Pike.
Hernandez’s start was the 51st of his career against the Angels, which matched Catfish Hunter for the second-most in history. The all-time leader in starts against the Angels is Jim Kaat with 57…
It was four years ago Sunday — April 9, 2013 — that the Mariners and Houston combined for a Safeco Field-record 25 runs in the Astros’ 16-9 victory. Houston hit five home runs.
The Mariners and Angels conclude their three-game series at 12:37 p.m. Sunday at Angel Stadium. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1 with a 3.00 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Matt Shoemaker (0-0, 3.60).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network, including mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv).
The Mariners open their home schedule at 2:10 p.m. Monday with the start of a three-game series against Houston at Safeco Field.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
BATTING AVERAGE WITH RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION
Arizona Diamondbacks (17-for-43) .395
Boston Red Sox (9-for-24) .375
Milwaukee Brewers (9-for-30) .300
New York Mets (6-for-20) .300
Miami Marlins (10-for-35) .286
Chicago White Sox (7-for-25) .280
Washington Nationals (10-for-36) .278
San Francisco Giants (11-for-40) .275
Tampa Bay Rays (12-for-42) .273
Colorado Rockies (11-for-41) .268
Los Angeles Dodgers (8-for-31) .258
Oakland Athletics (7-for-28) .250
Texas Rangers (7-for-28) .250
Cleveland Indians (9-for-38) .237
Minnesota Twins (9-for-38) .237
New York Yankees (9-for-38) .237
Detroit Tigers (4-for-17) .235
Pittsburgh Pirates (5-for-23) .217
Atlanta Braves (6-for-29) .207
Cincinnati Reds (6-for-30) .200
Los Angeles Angels (8-for-43) .186
Philadelphia Phillies (5-for-28) .179
San Diego Padres (6-for-34) .176
Chicago Cubs (4-for-25) .160
St. Louis Cardinals (4-for-28) .143
Kansas City Royals (4-for-29) .138
Toronto Blue Jays (4-for-29) .138
Houston Astros (3-for-28) .107
Mariners (4-for-43) .093