OAKLAND, Calif. — With much of the attention focused on his switch to center field, Brad Miller’s offensive surge is occurring mostly under the radar.
Miller entered Sunday’s series finale against Oakland with a .314 average (27-for-86) over his last 29 games with a .386 on-base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage.
"I think it’s part of the growing process," he said. "Sometimes during the year, you’re not going to be 100 percent. But being able to grind out and battle (is important). I thought (Saturday) was a prime example."
Miller said the key this season came when he sought to eliminate any anxiety over where he plays defensively. Example: On Sunday, he started at second base for just the fifth time this season.
"I’ve just embraced going day to day," Miller said. "It’s obviously out of my control. I want to be in the lineup. I want to play every day. And just have good at-bats. I feel like I’m just focused in the moment."
Outfielders Nelson Cruz and Franklin Gutierrez remained out of the starting lineup Sunday while they continued their recovery from muscle strains.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he hoped both would be available for the four-game series against Texas, which begins Monday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Cruz said he expected to be available "(Monday) or the next day. I’m pushing." He is recovering from a strained right quadriceps muscle suffered Wednesday in Houston while running the bases.
Gutierrez exited Friday’s series opener in Oakland because of a strained right groin muscle but had recovered sufficiently by Sunday to work out on the stationary bike.
***Second baseman Robinson Cano, who served Sunday as the designated hitter, remains slowed by a slight pull in a stomach muscle. He said quick movements aggravate the problem.
So why did the Mariners, who are on record as wanting to take a long look at Brad Miller in center field, choose to start him on Sunday at second base while putting utilityman Shawn O’Malley in center field?
"I like Brad better in the infield than I like O’Malley," manager Lloyd McClendon explained. "I want to play off their strengths. I think O’Malley is probably better in center than Brad right now.
"And Brad’s better than O’Malley at second."
Short-A Everett opens the best-of-three North Division playoffs Monday at home against Tri-City (Padres). The series continues Tuesday and, if necessary, Wednesday at Tri-City.
It was 14 years ago Monday — Sept. 7, 2001 — that two Mariners achieved milestones in a 10-1 victory over Baltimore at Safeco Field.
Bret Boone set the American League record for homers by a second baseman when he hit his 34th in the third inning against Jose Mercedes.
Ichiro Suzuki set the major-league record for singles in a season when he got his 168th.
Robinson Cano recorded his 444th career double in Saturday’s game, which ties him with George Burns and Andres Galarraga for 110th place on the all-time list. No, not the "Say goodnight, Gracie" George Burns…The Mariners entered Sunday with a streak of hitting at least one home run in 13 consecutive games. That matched an earlier 13-game run by the Yankees as the longest such streak this season by an American League club. Colorado has the majors’ top streak at 15 games…Felix Hernandez is tied with Houston’s Dallas Keuchel for the AL lead in victories with 16. (Keuchel pitched Sunday.) The only time a Mariners pitcher led the league in victories was 2009, when Hernandez had 19, which matched CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.
The Mariners open a 10-game homestand at 3:40 p.m. Monday — note the time — with the first of four games against Texas at Safeco Field.
Left-hander Roenis Elias (4-7, 4.35) will face Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (11-9, 3.27). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.