Seattle Mariners

Mariners have to make do with less for three-game series at Atlanta

Nelson Cruz is likely to spend much of the next three games as a cheerleader.
Nelson Cruz is likely to spend much of the next three games as a cheerleader. AP

For a change, it isn’t an injury that is forcing the Mariners to make roster adjustments as they prepare to open a three-game series at the new SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

It’s the rules. No designated hitter for games played in National League parks.

That affects every American League club when the schedule calls for an interleague road series, but it’s particularly painful for the Mariners at this point because designated hitter Nelson Cruz might be the game’s hottest hitter.

Cruz is batting .395 in his last 20 games with a .455 on-base percentage and a .921 slugging percentage. He also has 20 runs, seven doubles, 11 homers and 25 RBIs in that span.

The Mariners could put Cruz in right field for the three games against the Braves — and he’s been lobbying manager Scott Servais to do just that — but a history of leg and hip issues argue against it.

The last time that Cruz, 37, played the outfield was May 30 at Colorado, and he exited after two innings because of tightness in his right calf muscle.

"I’ve talked to Nellie quite a bit the last couple of days," Servais said. "He’s going so good right now, and he’s probably the healthiest he’s been all year, and I don’t really want to risk that.

"Right now, the plan is he’ll be available to pinch-hit off the bench."

Servais acknowledged that could change, but putting Cruz in right field would also weaken the Mariners’ outfield defense, one of the club’s primary strengths — and an important element for what is primarily a fly-ball pitching staff.

So Cruz is likely to sit. Along with his club-leading 31 homers and his league-leading 100 RBIs.

Other watchpoints:

***Left-hander Andrew Albers (1-0 with a 1.80 ERA) looks to build on his successful Mariners debut when he faces his former organization at 4:35 p.m. Pacific time in the series opener. The Mariners acquired Albers on Aug. 11 from Atlanta in a cash transaction. He was 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA at Triple-A Gwinnett prior to the trade.

***The Braves are starting right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (10-8, 4.75). He leads Atlanta in victories bit has lost three of his last four starts while allowing 20 runs and 27 hits in 16 1/3 innings.

***The Mariners enter the series at 63-62 and trailing Los Angeles and Minnesota by 1 1/2 games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. The Mariners are 2-1 on a 12-game trip that spans four cities.

***Atlanta is 55-67, including 7-13 in its last 20 games and 10-20 in its last 30.

***This series concludes the Mariners’ interleague schedule. They are currently 10-7 against National League opponents and need one victory in the series to finish with a winning interleague record for a second straight year after having done it just once (2009) from 2007-14.

***The Mariners hold a 7-6 lead in the all-time series against the Braves and swept all four games in a two-and-two arrangement in 2014.

***The Braves are averaging 4.58 runs per game, which ranks 11th among the 15 National League clubs. Their 4.78 ERA ranks 13th, and their minus-10 defensive runs saved ranked 11th.

***The Mariners are averaging 4.69 runs per game, which ranks ninth among AL clubs. Their 4.48 ERA also ranks ninth. Their plus-3 defensive runs saves ranks eighth.

TIME CAPSULE

It was 38 years ago Monday — Aug. 21, 1979 — that Tom Paciorek had a career-high six RBIs in leading the Mariners to an 8-4 victory over Toronto at the Kingdome.

Paciorek had a three-run homer against Phil Huffman in the fifth inning, and a three-run triple against Dave Freisleben in the sixth inning. It was probably a coincidence that Paciorek was hit by a pitch from Freisleben in the eighth inning.

 

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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