Slumping clubs look for signs that things are about to get better, and the Mariners could point to two major positives even after their summer tailspin deepened Thursday in a 7-4 loss to last-place Oakland.
***Shortstop Jean Segura had four hits for the third time in five games and now leads the American League in batting, which is fairly remarkable because he’s nine plate appearances shy of the qualification standard.
***Right fielder Mitch Haniger broke out of an 0-for-15 drought with a double and a home run. The homer was particularly notable because he stayed on an up-and-away pitch and drove it over the right-field wall.
Segura has been hitting all season, The problem is he’s missed 30 games because of a strained right hamstring in April and a high ankle sprain in June. His average is up to .354.
He is the league’s leading hitter because even when a 0-for-9 is added to his totals, Segura still has the AL’s best average at .341. The leader among players with a qualifying number of plate appearances is Houston’s Jose Altuve at .338.
The more-encouraging news is Haniger, who has slumped badly since returning last month from a six-week absence caused by a strained right oblique muscle.
Prior to Thursday, Haniger had a .195/.313/.293 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) slash in 22 games since returning to the lineup — a big drop from his pre-injury production of .342/.447/.608 in 21 games.
By studying tapes of his at-bats, before and after the injury, along with a lot of work in the batting cages with hitting coaches Edgar Martinez and Scott Brosius, Haniger believes he’s identified the problem.
"I wasn’t getting into my back side with my leg," he said. "Everything was just going forward. When I would land, it was just kind of mushy and my head dropping down.
"I’m just working with Edgar and Bro to stay tall and try to drive the ball like usual and swing at good pitches."
***Two lefties hook up at 7:10 p.m. Friday in the second game of the series. James Paxton (6-3 with a 3.27 ERA) will face Oakland’s Sean Manaea (7-4, 3.75). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Paxton is 2-0 with a 4.13 ERA in four career starts against the Athletics, although he got roughed up for five runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings while still getting a no-decision in a 9-6 loss on April 20 in Oakland.
***Manaea is 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners, including 1-1 and 4.91 in two starts at Safeco Field. He is 1-1 in two starts this season while allowing five runs in 11 innings.
***Rajai Davis is 5-for-9 in his career against Paxton, and Ryon Healy is 4-for-6. Adam Rosales is 4-for-11 with a homer and five RBIs.
***Nelson Cruz is 4-for-8 with two homers in his career against Manaea, while Guillermo Heredia is also 4-for-8. But Robinson Cano is 1-for-12, and Kyle Seager is 2-for-13.
***The Mariners Wives are holding their annual mystery autograph sale at Friday’s game. For $50, fans get a sealed paper bag with a baseball that is autographed by a player or manager Scott Servais. Proceeds benefit Mariners Care.
***Friday is also Snow Globe Night with the first 20,000 fans receiving either a Kingdome or Safeco Field snow globe. There are 10,000 of each in a promotion sponsored by Emirates Airline.
***The Athletics hold a 5-3 lead in the season series. The teams have split four games at Safeco Field.
***The Mariners have lost eight straight home games and nine of their last 11 overall. Oakland has won three in a row after a losing a season-worst six in a row.
It was 16 years ago Friday — July 7, 2001 — that lefty John Halama, in his second start after being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, pitched the first nine-inning perfect game in the 99-year history of the Pacific Coast League.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners