It’s not like the Mariners missed designated hitter Nelson Cruz in their lineup while playing two games under National League rules in Philadelphia. They produced 21 runs and 32 hits in sweeping the Phillies.
But they’ll welcome him back Thursday when they open a four-game weekend series against Toronto at the Rogers Centre.
Cruz was reduced to being a pinch-hitter in Philadelphia because a still-gimpy left hamstring prevented him from playing in the outfield. That won’t be a factor this weekend now that the DH is back in play in an American League ballpark.
"He is moving a little bit better with the hamstring," manager Scott Servais said. "When you’re on defense, it’s different. You can’t control it. You see the ball in the air, you’re going to go after it. On the bases, at times, you can control it."
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The Mariners need every bat they can get these days because their rotation is a wreck with four starters on the disabled list. It’s likely they’ll be relying on their offense until their rotation stabilizes.
Cruz has been hot.
He is batting .391 with seven homers and 27 RBIs in his last 26 games after a slow start. He also has a .468 on-base percentage and a .685 slugging percentage in that span.
Cruz seems to enjoy the Rogers Center; he has 11 homers and 37 RBIs in 38 career games in Toronto. Further, he’s had success against Thursday starter Marco Estrada: 5-for-10 with a homer and two walks in 12 career plate appearances.
***Toronto might be without its designated hitter. Ex-Mariner Kendrys Morales strained his left hamstring Tuesday while running out a grounder. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on Wednesday. His status is uncertain.
***The Blue Jays are also missing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury.
***Mariners starter Chase De Jong has never faced the Blue Jays, but he’s not unfamiliar with them. He was Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft and spent three years in the organization before a 2015 trade sent him to the Dodgers.
***Estrada is 1-3 with a 4.13 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners.
***The Mariners scored 10 or more runs in their last two games. The last time they did that was Aug. 15-16, 2015 in a 22-10 loss and a 10-8 victory at Boston.
***Kyle Seager has a .338 career average at the Rogers Centre, which ranks third among active players with a minimum of 75 plate appearances. Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana is at .346, and Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is at .341.
***Former Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has cooled off after a hot start. He is batting just .212 (7-for-33) this month in nine games after batting .273 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 25 games in April.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners