BALTIMORE — While Robinson Cano generally grabbed the spotlight in recent weeks as the centrifuge in the Mariners’ improved attack, Kyle Seager has the better numbers since the calendar turned to May.
Seager entered Thursday’s series finale against the Orioles with a slightly lower May average than Cano — .400 to .393 — but had a far higher on-base percentage (.441 to .408) and slugging percentage (.721 to .686).
"I’m able to stay more in the middle of the field," Seager explained. "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."
Manager Scott Servais pointed to Seager’s ability to soften his natural dead-pull mode as the key to his rising production.
Never miss a local story.
"He is predominantly a pull hitter," Servais said. "You see everybody shift against him. But when he does take some balls up the middle and into left-center field, you know things are starting to come around.
"He’s not pulling off as many balls. You don’t see the roll-over ground balls to second base. When you start to see that happening, you know good things are going to come."
Seager bottomed out in a slow start when his average dipped to .127 after going 0-for-4 on April 23 in a 4-2 loss to the Angels in Anaheim. But his surge didn’t really begin until the final day in April, when he went 2-for-3 against Kansas City.
"I didn’t waver at all with Kyle," Servais said. "Eventually, the numbers are going to come. He is one of those players who when he gets hot, it’s really hot. I think that’s what we’ve seen. It’s extra-base hits."
Seager’s slash numbers are now approaching or exceeding his career norms at .253/.337/.514.
"I feel pretty good," he admitted. "Able to make some adjustments, I’m staying in my swing a lot better. So, yeah, I feel much better."
IS LIND NEXT?
Servais is now employing the patient approach that worked with Seager on first baseman Adam Lind, who responded Thursday with a three-run homer in a 7-2 victory over the Orioles.
"He’s an aggressive player," Servais said. "He’s up there hacking and looking for a pitch he can drive. Fortunate for us, he got one."
Consider it a step in the right direction.
Lind still have just three homers and 12 RBIs in 32 games.
"When he gets up there very anxious, and starts chasing, he’s an easy guy to get out — like many players are," Servais said. "When he gets strikes and gets a little more patient, he gets into better counts and gets better pitches, that’s when he does his damage."
His homer Thursday came on a full-count pitch when the Mariners had runners at the corners in the sixth inning while clinging to a 2-1 lead. Afterward, Lind says he feels his approach at the plate has been better recently.
Lind’s history says that, eventually, he’s going to hit. He entered the season with a .274 average over 10 previous seasons, including .293 against right-handed pitchers.
"He’s going to play," Servais said. "The league is probably 75 percent right-handed pitching, he’s going to play. So all of the anxiousness or whatever is coming from within.
"We’re supporting him. He continues to work his tail off. He’ll figure it out, and he’s going to be fine."
CRUZ IN RIGHT
After serving as the designated hitter for all but one of the last 15 games, Nelson Cruz is tentatively ticketed for three straight starts this weekend in right field against the Reds in Cincinnati.
"We’ll take it day to day but, yeah, he’ll be in right field," Servais confirmed. "We need his bat, obviously. He’s a big part of our lineup."
Cruz started three straight days in right field earlier this season on one occasion: the April 25-27 series against Houston at Safeco Field. He made three straight starts earlier in April, but there was an open date after the second game.
JACKSON TO CLINTON
It appears the Mariners finally saw whatever it was they wanted to see from outfielder Alex Jackson in extended spring training. Jackson was reassigned Thursday to Lo-A Clinton.
Jackson is generally viewed as the organization’s highest-ceiling prospect, but he struggled last year in his first full professional season. He batted just .157 last year in 28 games at Clinton before getting reassigned to extended spring training.
The Mariners then sent Jackson, 20, to Short-A Everett, where he batted .239 in 48 games. Club officials said this spring that Jackson would be leave extended spring training until they believed he had corrected unspecified flaws.
Jackson was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft and ranked No. 1 last year and this season in the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s top prospects.
Hi-A Bakersfield shortstop Drew Jackson is tied for second for hits in the California League with 51 after going 7-for-16 over the last three games and raising his average to .307.
Jackson, 22, is batting .338 over his last 18 games. He won the Short-A Northwest League batting crown last season with a .358 average following his selection in the fifth round of the draft.
It was 22 years ago Friday — May 20, 1994 — that the Mariners won a game by the biggest margin in franchise history in a 19-2 victory over Texas at the Kingdome.
The 19 runs were a franchise record at the time, but Mariners scored 22 on April 29, 1999 in a 22-6 romp over Detroit at the Kingdome.
In the 1994 games, Ken Griffey Jr. and Tino Martinez hit home runs in a five-run first inning that started the rout. Edgar Martinez finished 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and five RBIs. Jay Buhner was 4-for-4 with three RBIs.
The Mariners make just their second trip to Cincinnati in 14 years when they open a three-game series at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday at Great American Ball Park.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (1-4 with a 4.38 ERA) will face Reds right-hander Dan Straily (2-1, 3.05) in the opener. The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The Mariners hold a 10-2 edge in the all-time series, including a 5-1 mark in Cincinnati. They swept a three-game series in 2002 at old Cinergy Field and won two of three in 2013 at GABP.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners