Mariners Insider Blog

Takeaways: Cruz’s injury, even if it’s not serious, puts Mariners in a pinch

Nelson Cruz broke from the box Saturday after lining a ball off the center-field wall, but he injured his right knee on a slide at second base.
Nelson Cruz broke from the box Saturday after lining a ball off the center-field wall, but he injured his right knee on a slide at second base. AP

The Mariners only had three hits Saturday night against Ricky Nolasco in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, but one of them resulted in an injury to Nelson Cruz on a slide at second base.

That’s a bad night.

Cruz said he felt pain in his right knee after a slide at second base in the second inning — he was out because Angels center fielder Cameron Maybin made a fine play on the ball as it caromed off the wall and then a strong throw.

Afterward, Cruz and manager Scott Servais stuck to a wait-and-see approach in evaluating the injury, although initial indications suggest it isn’t too serious.

"The doctor took a look at it," Cruz said, "and he said it’s day to day. So we’ve got to wait until (Sunday) and see how it reacts."

Servais added: "Everything structurally seems OK. It’s just one of those things. He banged it pretty hard."

Maybe Cruz will be fine when he awakens Sunday but, if he isn’t, it’s hard to see how the Mariners can operate for any length of time by carrying him, even for a few days, with their shortened bench.

The Mariners are operating with 13 pitchers, one more than normal, which means they play each night with just three reserves — and one of those is the second catcher.

Clubs are generally hesitant to use both catchers in the same game for fear of an injury in later innings that would leave them without a catcher. That means an injured Cruz would, effectively, leave the Mariners with a one-man bench.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that outfielder Boog Powell was pulled Saturday night from Triple-A Tacoma’s game against Albuquerque (Rockies) shortly after Cruz left the game at Angel Stadium.

But probably not.

Three takeaways from Saturday’s loss:

***Coming up empty: Nolasco pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Dodgers in his previous start. The Dodgers rank fourth in the majors in runs per game. So maybe the Mariners simply ran into a hot pitcher.

Even so, this was a disappointing offensive effort after collecting 17 hits Friday in a 10-0 romp in the series opener. The Mariners have seen Nolasco a lot over the last few years, including two games earlier this season.

He’s a known quality. There weren’t even many hard outs.

***Haniger perking up: Mitch Haniger looked lost last week in going 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in two games against Philadelphia. He is 2-for-7 so far this weekend against the Angels, which shows he’s moved from lost to unlucky.

Haniger could easily have five or six hits in the last two games. He’s making hard contact and, just maybe, is recapturing the productive form he displayed in April before suffering a strained right oblique that shelved him for six weeks.

In 18 games since returning, Haniger is batting just .235 with two homers and six RBIs. He batted .342 in 21 games prior to the injury for four homers and 16 RBIs.

A productive Haniger could help fill the gap if Cruz misses time.

***Sam I Am: The Mariners’ feeble efforts against Nolasco overshadowed another solid start from rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio, who limited the Angels to three runs in 6 1/3 innings. One run scored after he left the game.

It marked the seventh time in Gaviglio’s nine starts that he’s permitted three or fewer earned runs.

"I don’t know what to put in my report," one scout from a rival club said. "I don’t how he’s doing it, but he keeps doing it."

Put this in: Gaviglio has an effective sinker that provides him with a weapon to limit the damage with traffic on the bases.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners