The attention Friday night surrounding Mariners veteran Willie Bloomquist concerned his two-run homer in a 6-1 victory over Houston. It was just the 18th of his career and his first in 33 months. (To be fair, he spent a sizable portion of the interim on the disabled list.)
But don't overlook his previous plate appearance.
The Mariners had runners at first and third with one out in the fourth inning while clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Bloomquist battled the count against Astros rookie Rudy Owens and eventually delivered a sacrifice fly to right field.
"They were trying to pound me in a little bit," Bloomquist said. "So I was just really focused on trying to get a pitch out over the plate to go the other way with. The last thing I wanted to do was hit a ground ball to the left side of the infield (for a double play)."
Don't take it for granted.
Cycle back to the eighth inning Thursday night. The Mariners had the bases loaded with no outs in a tie game. Mike Zunino struck out, and Cole Gillespie popped out. Those two outs were, more or less, forgotten when Michael Saunders then beat out an infield grounder for a two-run single that produced a 3-1 victory.
That sac fly speaks to the reason the Mariners signed Bloomquist, 36, to a two-year deal in the off-season. So was the slick play he made as a shortstop on an Alex Presley grounder up the middle in the second inning. The homer was a bonus.
An assessment I once heard about Bloomquist was "he's only limited by his ability." That came in a conversation with his manager at the time, and it was intended as a compliment.
That manager said, "He's fundamentally sound. He never does anything stupid. Sometimes, he might gamble on the bases or something. But he never leaves you just shaking your head and going, `What the (flip)?' He's a gamer, and you need gamers.
"Look, you can't win with a team full of gamers. Some people fall in love with grit. That's (baloney). You need stars. That's how you win. But every good team has a gamer or two. Gamers don't often help you win. But they can keep you from losing."
Bloomquist's current manager, Lloyd McClendon put it this way after Friday's game: "This guy is a professional. He’s struggled a little early on, but I tell guys all the time, check the book. That guy is pretty good at what he does.
"Tonight is a little bit of what he can do. He’s by no means a power hitter, but he’s a professional hitter, and he gives you good at-bats."
Charting the King
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez reached a few milestones Friday by limiting the Astros to one run in eight innings while striking out nine. We noted some of them in today's notebook.
Then the stat mavens at Elias stepped in with these additions: "Since the start of the 2010 season, Hernandez has 25 starts of at least eight innings and nine or more strikeouts. Only two other pitchers have at least 15 starts of this type over that span: Cliff Lee (21) and Justin Verlander (15)."
The mention of Lee, a former teammate, prompts another look at what might be the best Mariners commercial of all time.
Hernandez's strong performance Friday boosted his record to 6-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.75. And before you shrug it off by saying it came against the Astros, who have the worst-hitting club in the league, remember it was Houston that pinned that loss on Hernandez.
An error by center fielder Abraham Almonte contributed four unearned runs to that 7-2 loss on April 21 at Safeco Field. But Hernandez also lasted just five innings on May 2 at Houston, when he got a no-decision in a 5-4 loss.
What was different on Friday?
"I’ve got to throw strikes with my fastball," he said. "And then use my breaking ball. The two (earlier) games against them, they would just lay off of my breaking balls and my change-ups. Today, I was aggressive with my fastball."
***Robinson Cano ranks second in the American League in batting, by a smidge, after raising his average to .326 by going 2-for-4 in Friday's victory. Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler leads at .32620. Cano is batting .32608. Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera is third at .32571. (They all round off to .326.)
***Cano is batting .368 (43-for-117) in his 30-game streak of reaching base at least once.
***The Mariners' bullpen has a 1.66 ERA over the last 18 games.
***Kyle Seager went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in Friday's game and is batting .301 (28-for-93) over his last 25 games with six homers and 26 RBIs.
Around the farms
***Triple-A Tacoma again paid a price for costly mistakes in a 7-5 loss to El Paso (Padres). Logan Morrison was 0-for-3 with a walk in the first game of his rehab assignment. From our Christian Caple.
***Double-A Jackson won 8-6 at Jacksonville (Marlins) behind a 4-for-4 night from outfielder Leon Landry, and a homer and three RBIs from catcher John Hicks.
***Hi-A High Desert got two homers from third baseman D.J. Peterson, but it wasn't enough in a 12-10 loss at Bakersfield (Reds).
***Lo-A Clinton mustered just four hits in a 7-0 loss at Kane County (Cubs).