It all starts at the top for the Mariners.
As in Dee Gordon, Jean Segura and Robinson Cano, their first three hitters each of these first nine games.
They were again the catalysts in the Mariners’ 8-3 victory over the Royals on Tuesday to get Felix Hernandez his second victory and improve to 5-4.
But start with Gordon, who completely flustered the Royals from the start when he stole two bases and scored in the first inning before pushing his hit streak to nine games – as in each of the Mariners’ nine games.
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Cano reached base three times, including with an RBI double to push his batting average to .414 with a .541 on-base percentage.
Then Segura. He was a home run short of becoming the fifth Mariner to hit for the cycle, finishing with a single, double and two-out, two-run triple.
He had a chance in the eighth inning to complete it, but he grounded into a fielder’s choice.
“I was trying,” Segura told reporters afterward. “But it’s harder when you’re trying to hit a home run.
“That was the closest I’ve been is tonight. But I’m still looking for it.”
Gordon, Segura and Cano have combined to bat .371 so far.
The rest of the lineup: .196.
It didn’t hurt that the Mariners were up against Royals left-hander Eric Skoglund, who was making his first appearance since pitching four innings during spring training on March 17, so almost a month ago.
The Mariners have now scored 19 runs their past three games – and this one came one day after not having a hit until the seventh inning in a 10-0 loss to the Royals on Monday.
Cano continues to hit all over the field, highlighting his night with a hard, two-out double to the wall in the second inning to make it 4-0.
But this one started with the Dee Gordon experience. He was hit by a pitch, then stole second, stole third and scored on Mitch Haniger’s single in the first inning.
That’s the difference speed makes.
He then scored from first base the following inning on Segura’s laser triple into a gaping hole in left-center field.
Segura seems to be taking just fine to batting second this year after hitting leadoff a year ago. Segura has multiple hits in five of his past seven games and this was his second three-hit game this year.
“It’s a good spot for him,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I think the longer that he and Dee work together as a 1-2 punch, he’ll get more comfortable getting an idea of when Dee is going to run and when he’s not. But Jean makes so much contact and he doesn’t strike out a ton so there’s always action. And with Dee on the bases it’s fun to watch.”
Edwin Diaz entered in the ninth inning because he hadn’t pitched in a week and he proceeded to strike out the side. So 11 of the possible 12 outs he’s pitched so far have been strikeouts.
And Guillermo Heredia pulled a home run in the top of the fifth to make it 5-2. He has three hits this year and two of them have landed over the fence.
BOUNCE BACK: Servais said the Mariners would bounce back on Tuesday after that 10-0 loss.
So they did.
And they did with a bottom of the batting order that included left-fielder Guillermo Heredia, designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, catcher Mike Marjama and first-baseman Taylor Motter.
The projected starters at those positions before all the Mariners’ injuries: LF Ben Gamel (oblique), DH Nelson Cruz (ankle), C Mike Zunino (oblique) and 1B Ryon Healy (ankle). Although, the first three of those players are expected to return this weekend when the Mariners host the Athletics, with Gamel set to return Friday.
That the Mariners are 5-4 despite all these injuries has to be a plus for them.
“Up and down the lineup we created traffic,” Servais said. “We had walks, Dee gets on base early and two stolen bases. A lot of good things especially with the top of our lineup. The guys at the bottom did things, as well.”
But it makes you wonder what this lineup could do when fully healthy and infused with Cruz, Zunino, Healy and Gamel, who combined for 100 home runs a year ago.
EFFECTIVE KING: Hernandez, too, bounced back after allowing eight runs and walking five in four innings his previous start in San Francisco.
On Tuesday he went 5 2/3 innings (his longest of three starts) on 91 pitches, having allowed six hits and three runs with just one walk (his final batter).
“Fastball command,” Hernandez said. “I was throwing it down in the corners. I was painting the corners. It was really good.”
He needed 25 pitches in the first inning (a day after Marco Gonzales threw 43 first-inning pitches) but he combined to throw 25 pitches over the next two innings, retiring eight consecutive batters and nine of the first 10 he faced.
And his curveball was effective, except when he hung one in the middle of the plate for Mike Moustakas’ two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, trimming the Mariners’ lead to 4-2.
“Curveball just stayed up,” Hernandez said. “But felt really good besides that.”
SEAGER SIGHTING: Servais’ office door was apparently closed for an extended time before the game while he spoke with Kyle Seager.
Seager entered the game with five hits in 30 at-bats, though he went 2-for-5 on Saturday with a home run and his 1,000th career hit.
But after a couple fly outs and a sharp ground out, Seager roped the first pitch he saw against left-handed reliever Brian Flynn (a 92-mph fastball) for a two-out, two-RBI double, hitting it the opposite way into the left-center gap.
It was a big hit, turning what was a manageable 6-3 game into a shut-the-door 8-3 lead.
“We talked to Seags earlier today and it’s something we saw in spring training – he’s just really good at the plate right now,” Servais said.
Wait, really good? He’s still batting .171.
“His timing isn’t consistent yet, but I think mechanically he feels like he’s in a good spot,” Servais said. “It was great to see him jump on the first pitch off a lefty and a big hit in the ball game.”
MARINERS AND THE CYCLE
Jean Segura was a home run away from hitting for the cycle on Tuesday against the Royals. Here's the list of Seattle Mariners players who have hit for the cycle:
|Adrian Beltre||Sept. 1, 2008||At Texas|
|John Olerud||June 16, 2001||At San Diego|
|Alex Rodriguez||June 5, 1997||At Detroit|
|Jay Buhner||June 23, 1993||Vs. Oakland (14 innings)|