Look hard enough, and there was one notable glimmer in the Mariners’ disappointing attack as they sought to rebound Saturday from a pair of one-run losses to the Astros.
Robinson Cano, with a pair of two-hit games, shows signs of emerging from one of the poorest stretches of his career.
“You get hot,” he said, “and you go through slumps, but I’ve felt much better (the past two days). But there’s no excuses for what happened.”
What happened, before the Mariners arrived at Minute Maid Park, was Cano limped though an 0-for-18 skid that matched the longest hitless streak of his 11-year career.
He broke that slide in his first at-bat Thursday and has four hits in nine at-bats over the first two games against Houston.
“Robby has a tremendous track record,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “When it’s all said and done, his numbers are going to be right where they’re supposed to be.
“He went through this (early) last year. We had the same conversations. He’s going to hit. Robby is going to be Robby.”
The Mariners could use it sooner than later.
SLUMPING ACKLEY SITS
Slumping left fielder Dustin Ackley didn’t start Saturday against Houston right-hander Collin McHugh, which could mark the start of diminished playing time as the Mariners search for better punch from their lineup.
That Ackley didn’t start was no surprise; he was hitless in 13 career at-bats against McHugh. McClendon opted instead for Rickie Weeks, who had been 1 for 4 against McHugh.
But Ackley is also batting .190 and mired in a 4-for-38 slide over his past 13 games. McClendon acknowledged it’s “a possibility” Weeks and Justin Ruggiano could see increased playing time against right-handed pitchers.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen reported no problems Saturday the day after testing his recovery from a hyperextended right elbow by throwing about 25 pitches in a bullpen workout.
Friday’s session marked Wilhelmsen’s first time of throwing from a mound since suffering the injury April 11 in a pregame workout in Oakland. Two days later, he was placed on the disabled list.
Plans call for Wilhelmsen to throw another bullpen workout prior to Sunday’s game. Barring setbacks, he is on track to be activated in mid-May.
Triple-A Tacoma manager Pat Listach had kind words for veteran left-hander Joe Saunders, who chose to become a free agent Friday by exercising an out clause in his minor league contract.
“Guys have outs in their contracts that say: ‘If I’m not in the big leagues by a certain time I can go search for another team to play for,’ ” Listach said. “And he exercised his out. That’s his right. Guys on every team have outs.
“Maybe it will bring a better chance for him to get to the big leagues with another organization. I wish him the best. He was a true professional while he was here, and I hate to see him go.”
Low-A Clinton right-hander Daniel Missaki said he didn’t get nervous Friday night in contributing seven innings to a combined no-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Cedar Rapids until he exited the game.
Not while he was pitching.
“No, because I wasn’t thinking about that,” he told MiLB.com. “I was just thinking about helping the team to win.”
Missaki, 19, retired the first 20 batters before issuing a two-out walk in the seventh. He struck out the next hitter, which ended the inning, before the LumberKings went to the bullpen.
Kody Kerski and Troy Scott closed out the gem by pitching one inning apiece.
“That was awesome,” Missaki said. “I was little bit nervous after I finished.”
Missaki signed with the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent shortly after pitching for Brazil in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in five starts at Clinton.
High-A Bakersfield right-hander Edwin Diaz was picked by “Baseball America” to its all-prospect team for April after going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in five starts.
The magazine cited 13 players: one for each defensive position and five pitchers. It said Diaz “has been particularly impressive in April, when he struck out 27 in 25 innings and did not allow a home run.
“That last feat is particularly impressive because he made four of his five starts at home in Bakersfield, one of the top home run parks in the minors.”
Diaz, 21, was a third-round pick in 2012 and entered the season ranked No. 6 on the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.
It was 17 years ago Sunday — May 3, 1998 — that Dan Wilson hit an inside-the-park grand slam against Frank Castillo in a 10-6 victory over Detroit at the Kingdome.
Wilson circled the bases on a two-liner off the wall in left-center field. Left fielder Luis Gonzalez just missed a leaping catch, and the ball caromed hard back onto the field and away from center fielder Brian Hunter.
The Mariners scored five runs in the first and five more in the second in support of Randy Johnson, who wasn’t at his best in allowing six runs in seven innings. Johnson did strike out 11.
The Mariners, entering Saturday, are 9-7 when they hit a homer and 1-6 when they don’t. ... The Mariners used 20 different lineups in their first 23 games. ... The Mariners are the only club in baseball that hasn’t won a game by four runs or more.
The Mariners and Astros conclude their four-game series at 11:10 a.m. (PDT) Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander J.A. Happ (2-1, 2.30 ERA) will face Houston righty Roberto Hernandez (1-2, 3.80).
The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.
After Sunday’s series finale, the Mariners travel to Anaheim for a three-game series that completes their three-city, 10-game trip.