HOUSTON — Kyle Seager is the victim of what amounts to a solar eclipse.
Robinson Cano continues to hog attention because of a 18-for-35 surge over eight games in May, which lifted his average from .226 to .305. He also has three doubles, four homers and nine RBIs in that time.
"He’s incredible," Seager observed. "He’s incredible anyway, and when he gets in a groove like this he’s unbelievable. There’s not too many people that can do what he’s doing."
The thing is, Seager might be one of those people. He is 16-for-37 stretch over the last nine games in boosting his average from .139 to .233. He has four doubles, two triples, three homers and nine RBIs in that span.
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"I feel pretty good," Seager admitted. "I’m able to stay more in the middle of the field. Not pulling off nearly as bad. You’re giving yourself a chance on balls that are middle of the way as opposed to only having one area you can handle."
For his part, Cano pointed to hitting coach Edgar Martinez as the key to the club’s improving attack, which entered Sunday ranked second among American League teams with an average of 4.47 runs a game.
"We’ve got to give credit to Edgar," said Cano, who hit a home run Sunday that accounted for the Mariners’ only run in a 5-1 loss to Houston. "He’s amazing with all the positive things he says to everyone.
"He was one of the best hitters in any situation. And that’s a guy you can go and ask questions to. He’s been so big for us."
PITCHING TO CANO
The Astros are delighted they won’t see Cano again until July. By then, they hope, he’ll have cooled down.
"The rest of the league can have him for a month or however long it is until we play him," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "When we gets locked in like this, it’s a tall task."
Cano has a 13-game hitting streak against Houston, dating to last season, and is 14-for-30 this season through seven games with five homers and 17 RBIs.
"He’s just one of those guys," Houston ace Dallas Keuchel said, "where you make a quality major-league pitch and, if he’s on a hot streak, he’s going to hit it. It’s almost like you’ve purposely got to throw him balls."
Cano hit two homers Saturday, including a game-winner to the opposite field in the 10th inning against lefty reliever Tony Sipp in a 3-2 victory.
"You feel comfortable with him up to bat with nobody on," Hinch said, "and then he goes oppo to end the game."
PRAISE FOR THE PUPIL
The relationship between O’Dowd and Dipoto dates to Dipoto’s time as a player in the Cleveland system when O’Dowd was the farm director.
O’Dowd was Colorado’s general manager in 2005 when he hired Dipoto to serve as director of player personnel. Dipoto is one of six current general managers who once worked under O’Dowd.
"He was older than the others when he came into the front office," said O’Dowd, who now works as an analyst MLB Network, "but he had a deeper background on the field.
"Jerry had the highest energy level of any human being I have been around in my life. He is a hyperactive thinker. He has a deep level of intellectual curiosity. Obviously, with his background as a player, he has a great feel for the game.
"He’s one guy who always asked the question, `Why?’ He wanted to make sure there wasn't a better way to build a better process."
The other general managers who once worked under O’Dowd are Jeff Bridich (Colorado), Jon Daniels (Texas), Billy Eppler (Los Angeles Angeles), Mike Hill (Miami) and Matt Klentak (Philadelphia).
The Mariners aren’t just winning at the major-league level. Three of their four full-season affiliates are also leading their division.
***Triple-A Tacoma took a 17-12 record into Sunday and led the Pacific North Division of the Pacific Coast League by 3 1/2 games.
***Double-A Jackson (18-10) led the North Division of the Southern League by two games.
***Lo-A Clinton (18-1) led the Western Division of the Midwest League by two games.
The organization’s other affiliate, Hi-A Bakersfield, was tied for third place in the North Division of the California League at 12-17. None of the organization’s four full-season affiliates finished last season with a winning record.
It was 35 years ago — May 9, 1981 — that Tom Paciorek hit a walk-off home run against the New York Yankees for the second night in a row at the Kingdome.
This one was a three-run shot against Ron Davis that produced a 6-5 victory in front of a Bat Night crowd of 51,903. The previous night, Paciorek led off the ninth inning with a homer against Rudy May in a 3-2 victory.
The first-place Mariners open a weeklong homestand at 7:10 p.m. Monday with the first of three games against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-2 with 2.21 ERA) will look to become the franchise’s all-time leader victories when he faces Tampa Bay lefty Matt Moore (1-3, 4.95).
Hernandez and Jamie Moyer are currently tied for the franchise lead with 145 victories. Hernandez is 7-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 15 career starts against the Rays, and pitched a perfect game against them on Aug. 15, 2012 at Safeco Field.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners