Like many managers, Lloyd McClendon believes baseball is a game of match-ups, which is why he chose to pinch-hit for one of his hotter hitter Thursday with the game on the line against Houston.
It was 1-1 in the seventh inning, but the Mariners had the bases loaded with one out. The Astros had just summoned reliever Tony Sipp to get a left-on-left match-up against rookie James Jones.
Jones had a single and a walk in three plate appearances against starter Jarred Cosart, and that single extended Jones' two ongoing streaks: hits in 12 straight games and at least one hit in all 13 of his career starts.
But McClendon saw Jones as a poor match-up against Sipp, who had not allowed a hit or a walk in 6 2/3 innings over five previous appearances since joining the Astros. Sipp also had 11 strikeouts.
The Mariners needed to put the ball in play, and McClendon sent up right-hander Cole Gillespie.
"This guy hasn’t given up a hit all year since he’s been called up," McClendon said. "It’s a tough match-up for Jonesy in that situation. I’ll say this: In most instances, I want him to hit. If we think he’s going to be an everyday player, he needs to face those situations.
"But it was such a big point in the game, and we thought we had a chance to get the match-up that we wanted. And listen, Gillespie got the pitch that he wanted. He just popped it up. It’s just one of those things."
It worked out for the Mariners because Michael Saunders then beat out an infield grounder for a two-run single.
On to Tacoma
Outfielder/DH Logan Morrison, who suffered a strained right hamstring on April 14 will start his minor-league rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A Tacoma against El Paso at Cheney Stadium.
Our Christian Caple has the details (and more) in his Mariners notebook.
The Mariners also confirmed lefty James Paxton will start his rehab assignment Saturday in the first game of the Rainiers' doubleheader against El Paso. He is recovering from a strained back muscle, suffered April 8, and is ticketed for 75 pitches.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker could soon be joining Morrison and Paxton in Tacoma. Walker is scheduled Friday to throw a simulated game — likely to be three or four innings at 50-plus pitches.
Walker is recovering from shoulder soreness. If all goes well in the sim game, his next activity should be in Tacoma.
Some links of note
***What's the latest on Kendrys Morales? Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (@JonHeymanCBS) offers some possibilities. Nobody is more tied in on the doings of Scott Boras' clients than Jon. Yes, the Mariners are among the possibilities, but they're not the top possibility.
***Want to get a handle of who the Mariners might be considering as their first-round pick? There's no better information on the draft than what Baseball America assembles. Here's their ranking of the top 200 prospects. The Mariners have the sixth overall pick.
***Baseball America also has its latest mock draft out and projects the Mariners to take shortstop high school shortstop Nick Gordon. It also list two others who have been scouted hard.
***Robinson Cano drew an intentional walk Thursday in the Mariners' two-run seventh, which extended his career-best streak of reaching base at least once to 29 games. The Mariners' record is 47 games by Alvin Davis in 1984.
***The Mariners have come from behind in 12 of their 23 victories.
***Stefen Romero snapped an 0-for-12 streak by going 2-for-3 with a walk in Thursday's victory.
***Mariners relievers have 137 strikeouts in 132 innings after getting five on Thursday in 3 2/3 innings.
Around the farms
***Triple-A Tacoma paid a price for too many mistakes in a 4-3 loss to El Paso (Padres). Our Don Ruiz has the details.
***Double-A Jackson lost 3-2 to Jacksonville (Marlins) in 12 innings despite three hits and a homer from catcher John Hicks. From the Generals' website.
***Hi-A High Desert squandered a three-run lead in a 9-7 loss at Lake Elsinore (Padres). From the Victorville Daily Press.
***Lo-A Clinton managed little offense in a 6-1 loss at Kane County (Cubs). From the LumberKings' website.