Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: ‘Meat’ of the lineup back in place ... but can it produce?

The All-Star heart of the Seattle Mariners’ lineup returned intact Friday night with a clear directive from manager Lloyd McClendon.

It’s time to produce.

Second baseman Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager returned after a one-game absence. Cano is battling stiffness in his lower back, while Seager is recovering from a bout with food poisoning.

Designated hitter Nelson Cruz played in Thursday’s 7-0 loss to San Francisco despite vomiting before the game.

“Much better,” Cano said of his back. “I would say, ‘Good enough.’ I’m going go out there and play.”

That’s the first step.

“If we’re going to have a successful season,” McClendon said, “and be the type of club we think we can be, then our stars have got to hit. They’ve got to be consistent. It’s just that simple.”

It hasn’t happened.

After getting shut out for the fourth time in eight games, the Mariners entered their weekend series against Houston averaging an American League-low of 3.36 runs a game.

That puts the Mariners on pace for the second-worst production in their 39-year history. The only season they did worse was 2010, when they averaged 3.17 runs.

“Our three-four-five-six guys have got to produce,” McClendon said. “They get paid to produce, and they’ve got to produce. It’s not rocket science or (findings from) the analytical department. They’ve got to hit.

“The meat of your order has to hit and carry your club. That’s why they get paid the big bucks. To hit and drive in runs. It’s just that simple.”

The Chicago White Sox entered the weekend with the AL’s second-lowest production at 3.46 runs a game. The AL average is 4.22, while Toronto leads the league at 5.53.

The Mariners’ run-scoring average isn’t the worst in the majors — thanks to woebegone Philadelphia, which entered the weekend averaging 3.03 runs a game.

DONNELLY BACK AT THIRD

Third-base coach Rich Donnelly said he believes he’s finally recovered from a urinary infection after being hospitalized twice in the week.

Donnelly, 68, was released at 6 a.m. Friday after missing games Wednesday and Thursday against the Giants at Safeco Field. He was initially hospitalized Monday in San Francisco just prior to a game.

“I worked the game (Tuesday in San Francisco),” he said, “and I was 50-50. I got off the airplane (that night in Seattle) and thought I’m going to try to get through the night.

“At 6 o’clock (on Wednesday morning), I said, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’  ”

Donnelly was scheduled for an appointment Wednesday with a urologist. A quick examination led to a second hospitalization.

INHERITED RUNNERS

Left-hander Charlie Furbush has emerged as the Mariners’ best option when looking for a reliever to clean up a mess. Furbush has stranded all 14 of his inherited runners while compiling a 1.93 ERA in 28 appearances.

“His numbers keep getting better,” McClendon said. “He’s good against lefties and righties. He’s very versatile. He can pitch at any time in any situation.

“When he’s throwing strikes, he’s as good as any lefty in the league.”

Right-hander Mark Lowe is also perfect in fewer situations, stranding all five of his inherited runners.

The flip side?

Right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen has permitted 11 of 12 inherited runners to score, while lefty Joe Beimel has stranded two of nine inherited runners.

The numbers for the rest of the relief corps: Carson Smith has stranded eight of 13, while Vidal Nuno failed to strand the only runner he has inherited. Fernando Rodney has not entered a game with runners on base.

STREAK HALTED

Seager’s consecutive-games streak ended Thursday at 192 when he was sidelined by food poisoning.

Seager’s run had been the second-longest current streak in the majors behind Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose streak of 234 games also ended Thursday because of a hand injury.

The longest current streak now belongs to Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan at 126.

The Mariners’ record for consecutive games is 396 by Ichiro Suzuki.

HIGH-QUALITY ROOKIES

A defensive misplay helped prevent rookie left-hander Mike Montgomery from opening his career with four consecutive quality starts (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs) when he gave up four runs over 71/3 innings in the loss to San Francisco on Thursday.

The Giants scored three runs in the second inning after shortstop Brad Miller fumbled a glove-hand exchange on a potential inning-ending double play.

Blake Beavan owns the franchise record with six quality starts to open his career in 2011. Michael Pineda began his career with five quality starts in 2011. No other Mariners pitcher has recorded more than three.

SHORT HOPS

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is slotted for three to four innings and 45 to 50 pitches Saturday in a rehab start for Single-A Everett against Eugene (Cubs). Iwakuma hasn’t pitched since April 20 because of a strained back muscle. … It was “Star Wars” Night on Friday at Safeco Field. The only active Mariners who were alive when the original movie came out in 1977 are relievers Rodney and Beimel. ... The Mariners were 25-16, entering the weekend, in games when they hit at least one homer. They were 5-21 when going homerless.

MINOR DETAILS

Double-A Jackson’s Edwin Diaz is No. 13 on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet from Baseball America after going 2-0 in two starts and yielding two runs in 12 innings.

The magazine noted on its website:

“The thin right-hander with perhaps the best arm in the Mariners’ system has begun to find his footing at Double-A as one of the youngest players in the Southern League.

“He dominated at High Class A Bakersfield, and still is showing excellent control despite an unsightly 4.97 ERA that is largely attributable to his first three starts for Jackson.”

Diaz, 21, was the Mariners’ third-round pick in the 2012 draft and entered the season as the highest-ranked pitcher, at No. 6 overall, on the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.

PITCHER SUSPENDED

Right-hander Edwin Martinez of the Mariners’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League received a 72-game suspension after testing positive for stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance.

Martinez is a 19-year-old Dominican who was signed March 31, 2014, as a nondrafted free agent. He has allowed three runs and five hits in 62/3 innings this season over three appearances.

LOOKING BACK

It was 30 years ago Saturday — June 20, 1985 — that the Mariners pounded out what was then a club-record 20 hits in an 11-3 victory at Texas.

Phil Bradley, Ivan Calderon, Jim Presley and Donnie Scott had three hits apiece. The current club record for hits, 24, was achieved on two occasions.

The high total for hits by this year’s Mariners is 17 on April 19 in an 11-10 victory over Texas at Safeco Field.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Seattle right-hander Taijuan Walker (4-6, 5.00 ERA) will face Houston’s ace, left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-2, 2.04).

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