OAKLAND, Calif. — Robinson Cano admits it; he’s surprised to see opponents consistently employing defensive shifts — sometimes, extreme shifts — this season when he’s at the plate.
"Honestly, yes," he said. "But that’s good. Let them keep doing that."
Cano prides himself on hitting the ball to all fields and was often cited by teammates in the past as having the type of approach that forces opponents to play him straight up.
"It has been surprising that some teams have shifted him as much as they have," manager Scott Servais said. "Everybody works off a different formula and the numbers they’re looking at for when they put severe shifts on."
Cano is answering in the best way possible.
He had three hits Monday against Oakland, including a single when he just flicked the ball to the left side. He then hit two rockets to left field, a homer and double, on Tuesday against Athletics ace Sonny Gray.
Cano added two more hits up the middle in Wednesday’s 9-8 comeback victory, which completed a three-game sweep.
"I’m just trying to go with the pitch," he said. "If it’s middle in, I try to pull it. If it’s middle away, I try to go with the pitch. If you try to go to left, and it’s inside, you’re going to jam yourself. I’d rather just go where the pitch is."
So if opponents are going to shift, they’d better execute a pitch on the inner half of the plate, which is Cano’s hot zone. He entered Wednesday as the American League co-leader in homer runs with nine and sole leader in RBIs with 27.
Cano’s average is climbing, too. He’s up to .273 after a 14-for-37 stretch over the last nine games, which followed a feast-or-famine start to the season.
"The hits are coming," Servais said. "By the end of the year, you’ll look up and (he’ll be where he always is). I’m excited about his production. His production has been outstanding in driving in runs."
So much for the shift.
ZYCH: FOUR-TO-SIX WEEKS
Reliever Tony Zych is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing a follow-up examination in Seattle. He was placed on the disabled list Tuesday because of what the club characterized as tendinitis in his rotator cuff.
Zych had complained recently of shoulder soreness, which limited his availability. The soreness increased Monday — one day after he struck out the side in a one-inning appearance against Kansas City at Safeco Field.
The Mariners responded by placing him on the disabled list and sending him back to Seattle for further tests. They replaced him on the roster by promoting right-hander Steve Johnson from Triple-A Tacoma.
Zych, 25, was 1-0 with 3.00 ERA in 12 innings over 10 appearances, while recording 19 strikeouts in 12 innings.
Lefty reliever Ryan Horstman moved up to Double-A Jackson earlier this week after striking out 23 batters in 13 2/3 innings at Hi-A Bakersfield. He had a 2.63 ERA and two saves in nine appearances.
The Mariners selected Horstman, 23, in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, but he has been limited in his three previous seasons by elbow and forearm injuries. He has a 1.25 ERA in 25 career appearances.
It was 25 years ago Thursday — May 5, 1991 — that Greg Briley ended the longest game in the history of the Kingdome by hitting a home run in the 16th inning for a 5-4 walk-off victory over the New York Yankees.
Briley’s homer was a two-run shot to right field against Rich Monteleone and followed a one-out double by Omar Vizquel. The winning pitcher was current Mariners broadcaster Bill Krueger, who gave up one run earlier in the inning.
Oddly, it was Briley did not hit another home run for the rest of the season in 320 at-bats. The game lasted 5 hours, 31 minutes.
The Mariners entered Wednesday with a plus-28 run differential, which matched Chicago for the best among American League clubs…Kyle Seager’s three-run homer Tuesday against Oakland reliever Mark Rzepcynski was his 15th against a left-handed pitcher since the start of the 2015 season. That is the most in the majors by a left-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers in that span.
The Mariners open a four-game weekend series against the Astros at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Lefty Wade Miley (2-2 with a 5.06 ERA) will face Houston rookie right-hander Chris Devenski (0-1, 1.45).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners