HOUSTON — Leave it to grandma.
Mariners rookie reliever Carson Smith was, probably by design, only peripherally aware earlier in the week that he was closing in on the club record for scoreless innings to start his career.
Smith had pitched one-third of an inning in Monday’s 3-1 victory at Texas when he met his grandparents in the tunnel outside of the clubhouse at Globe Life Park.
“My grandma told me after the game,” Smith said, “`I wish you had stayed in there to get those last couple of outs.” I said, `What do you mean?’
“Then she started to speak of the streak. She’s a big fan. Then my grandfather quickly made her stop after she got a little bit out, and I was aware of what she was talking about.
“My grandfather is a big baseball guy. He said, `No, you don’t talk about that. You don’t mention (streaks). So we’ll leave it at that.’ At that point, I kind of knew I was getting close.”
Smith got the record in Thursday’s 3-2 loss at Houston by pitching a one-two-three eighth inning. That boosted his career totals to 18 1/3 scoreless innings in 20 appearances.
Both are club records.
Those three outs Thursday moved Smith past Mark Lowe, who began his career in 2006 with 17 2/3 scoreless innings. Lowe is currently pitching at Triple-A Tacoma.
Smith broke the club record for scoreless games earlier in year; it had been 13 by Lowe (2006) and Tim Davis (1994). Smith’s run of 20 in a row is tied for the third-longest streak in major-league history.
Now his grandma can track his run at the MLB record: 29 scoreless games to start a career by Brad Ziegler in 2008 at Oakland. Ziegler currently pitches for Arizona (and has opened the season with 10 scoreless outings).
“That stuff, it’s great,” Smith said. “But what matters is getting outs day by day. It doesn’t matter what you did the day before.”
Injured reliever Tom Wilhelmsen reported no problems after throwing “about 25 pitches” in a bullpen workout that marked his first time on a mound since suffering a hyperextended elbow on April 11 in Oakland.
“Fastballs and some sinkers,” he said. “Felt great. Next bullpen on Sunday. No issues at all. I went pretty good today. Between 90-95 percent today. Felt pretty good.”
Wilhelmsen’s timetable, barring setbacks, points to a mid-May return.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma has progressed to throwing long toss in his recovery from a strained back muscle, manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Iwakuma strained his right latissimus dorsi muscle on April 21 when throwing the day after his last start. He was 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA at the time of his injury.
“He’s progressing,” McClendon said, “but he’s three or four weeks away.”
This won’t be a surprise:
The Mariners, prior to Friday, ranked next-to-last among American League clubs in all three slash categories — batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage — with runners in scoring position.
*Their .213 batting average is only better than Texas (.200).
*Their .294 on-base percentage is only better than Cleveland (.290).
*Their .333 slugging percentage is only better than Texas (.284).
Those numbers aren’t likely to improve after going 1-for-5 with RISP in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Astros.
If you read the previous note, it’s also no surprise the Mariners are wasting some fine pitching in their scuffling efforts to get back to .500. They are just 5-6 in their last 11 games despite compiling a 2.87 ERA.
The strong pitching effort represents a turnaround from the season’s first 12 games, when the Mariners posted a 4.95 ERA and went 5-7.
The rotation is pacing the staff resurgence.
After a rocky 6.17 ERA through he first 12 games, the unit is humming along at 2.29 over the last 11 games. The rotation entered Friday with a nine-game streak of allowing two or fewer earned runs.
QUENTIN, SAUNDERS GONE
Veteran outfielder Carlos Quentin retired Friday, one day following his departure Triple-A Tacoma after just five games. He was 3-for-17 with the Rainiers before choosing to return home.
Veteran lefty Joe Saunders is simply looking for a better opportunity after choosing to opt out of his minor-league deal. He was 0-3 with a 5.73 ERA after allowing seven runs and 11 hits in seven innings over five games.
The Mariners signed Quentin, 32, to a minor-league contract on April 22. He became a free agent a week earlier when released by Atlanta, who acquired him April 5 from San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel deal.
“Over the past several days,” Quentin said, “it became clear to me that my injuries have taken too great of a physical toll for me to be able to perform at the level I expect from myself.
“As a result, I believe it is the right time for me to walk away and to refocus my energy on the next chapter of my life with my family.”
Quentin is still under contract for $8 million through the end of the season, which the Braves remain obligated to pay. The Mariners were paying a pro-rated portion of the $507,500 minimum salary prior to his departure.
Saunders, 33, signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners in February after agreeing to switch to the bullpen in an effort to revitalize his career.
NO-HITTER FOR LO-A CLINTON
Lo-A Clinton right-hander Daniel Missaki and two relievers combined on a no-hitter in a 2-0 victory at Cedar Rapids (Twins).
Missaki, 19, walked one and struck out seven in seven innings before Kody Kerski and Troy Scott each contributed one inning to the gem.
Scott ended the game by striking out Nick Gordon.
Missaki played for Brazil in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and signed soon after with the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent.
Lefty Danny Hultzen gave up one unearned run in 3 1/3 innings for Double-A Jackson against Pensacola (Reds) in his first minor-league start since Sept, 1, 2013 at Tacoma.
Hultzen was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft but missed all of last season after undergoing major shoulder surgery on Oct. 1, 2013.
He threw 38 of 56 pitches for strike while allowing three hits, walking one and striking out four.
It was 13 years ago Saturday — May 2, 2002 — that Mike Cameron and Bret Boone became the first players to consecutive homers twice in the same inning.
The feat occurred in a 10-run first inning of a 16-5 victory at Chicago. Cameron went on to hit four homers in the game, which had not been done in the American League since 1959 by Cleveland’s Rocky Colavito.
Nelson Cruz’s 11th homer, which leads the majors, struck the locomotive above the left-field wall and was estimated at 432 feet…Robinson Cano is 4-for-9 in his last two games after an 0-for-18 skid…The Mariners, prior to Friday, had only allowed four homers in 10 road games. They gave up three on Friday…The Mariners extended their club record by playing their 19th straight game decided by three or fewer runs. The last club with a 19-game streak was the 2011 Giants.
The Mariners and Astros continue their four-game series at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Taijuan Walker (1-2, 6.88) was face Houston’s Collin McHugh (3-0, 2.92) in a match-up of right-handers.
You can see the game on Root Sports and hear it on 710 ESPN.