BALTIMORE — Maybe it’s the weather — although it was 54 degrees Tuesday for the first pitch prior to a 10-run shelling of the Orioles. Or maybe it’s just the law of averages.
Whatever it is, the Mariners show added punch since the calendar turned to May.
"I think it’s more the law of averages," manager Scott Servais said. "We started off pretty slow offensively, at home especially. It’s starting to even up. Guys getting comfortable and getting it going."
All trends are spiking up. The Mariners averaged exactly five runs through their first 15 games this month after scuffling along at 4.3 through their 28 games in April.
Their slash numbers show similar gains:
***Batting average: .274 in May after .228 in April.
***On-base percentage: .331 in May after .314 in April.
***Slugging percentage: .447 in May after .397 in April.
The Mariners now rank ninth, fifth and fifth among the 15 American League clubs in those categories.
Their season-long average of 4.61 runs per game ranks fourth — trailing only Boston (5.97) Cleveland (4.75) and Texas (4.62). The AL average is 4.31.
A year ago, the Mariners averaged 4.05 runs a game, which ranked 13th in the league, and they sought to address that deficiency by bolstering the margins in the belief that the heart of their lineup simply needed more RBI opportunities.
"We talked about it through the whole winter,"general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "that we were going to raise the level of play around that (core) group and feed them. Right now, they’re getting fat.
"They’re doing what they do. They’re stars being stars. None more so than Robby (Cano)."
April’s numbers show the plan didn’t click immediately, but Cano saw it coming in late April while the pitching staff carried the club.
"I think we can be better," Cano said. "So far this year, we haven’t been scoring very many runs. But I think we’ve got a good lineup. Guys who can run. Guys who can bunt and do the little things. We can be better than we are right now."
So far in May…
GO-SLOW PLAN FOR BENOIT
While veteran setup reliever Joaquin Benoit is back from the disabled list — he was activated prior to Tuesday’s series opener — he still remains somewhat under wraps.
"I’m not going to overdo it with him," Servais admitted. "You probably won’t see him (pitch) back-to-back days any time soon. But I do want to get him out there and get him back in the mix."
Benoit hasn’t pitched since April 21 because of what club officials characterized as inflammation in his right shoulder. But Servais reaffirmed again Wednesday that Benoit will pitch in high-leverage, late-inning situations.
BLASH TO PADRES
The Mariners, as expected, worked out a trade than enabled outfielder Jabari Blash, a Rule 5 pick, to remain in San Diego after he cleared waivers. The Mariners are expected to receive cash instead of a player in return.
Under Rule 5 regulations, a player must be offered back to his former club for $25,000 before he can be sent to the minors. Oakland selected Blash in last December’s draft and traded him to the Padres.
Blash, 25, was 3-for-25 in 23 games for San Diego before he was designated for assignment on May 13. He spent the six previous seasons in the Mariners’ system and split last year between Triple-A Tacoma and Double-A Jackson.
The Mariners led the majors, prior to Wednesday’s game, with 21 homers this season against left-handed pitchers. Tampa Bay ranked second with 18, followed by Colorado with 17.
Nelson Cruz was tied with four other players for the individual lead with five homers against lefties. Cruz also leads all players with 19 homers against lefties since the start of the 2015 season.
Kyle Seager ranks second to Cruz with 17 homers against lefties since the starts of the 2015 season, including four this year. Seager’s year-plus total is the most by a left-handed hitter against lefty pitchers.
10 FROM THREE
When Robinson Cano (two), Cruz (five) and Seager (three) drove in all 10 runs in Tuesday’s victory, it was just the third time in the Mariners’ 40-year history that they scored in double figures with all runs driven in by their three-four-five hitters.
The other occasions each occurred against the New York Yankees:
***May 24, 1996 in a 10-4 victory at the Kingdome. Ken Griffey Jr. had six RBIs, while Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner each had two.
***Aug. 19, 2001 in a 10-2 victory at Yankee Stadium. Martinez had no RBIs as the No. 3 hitter, but Bret Boone had two and Mike Cameron had eight RBIs.
ZUNINO’ S SLIDE
Triple-A Tacoma catcher Mike Zunino has cooled considerably this month after being selected as the Pacific Coast League player of the month for April.
Zunino is batting just .190 in 15 May games with a .254 on-base percentage and a .345 slugging percentage. He has two homers and three RBIs. In April, he had a .397/.438/.767 slash in 20 games with seven homers and 22 RBIs.
Double-A Jackson utility infielder Zach Shank’s season-long streak of reaching base safely ended at 29 games Wednesday when he went 0-for-4 in a 3-1 victory over Mobile (Diamondbacks).
Shank’s run was the longest of the season in the Southern League — by one game over a 28-game streak by teammate Tyler O’Neill from April 7 to May 10. Shank is batting .317.
The Mariners selected Shank in the 28th round of the 2013 draft. He split last season at Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, and batted a combined .250 with a .323 on-base percentage in 93 games.
It was 22 years ago Thursday — May 19, 1994 — that Jay Buhner scored the winning run in a 5-4 walk-off victory over Texas at the Kingdome — on Jay Buhner Haircut Night.
Rangers reliever Matt Whiteside issued a bases-loaded walk to Mike Blowers that capped a two-run comeback in the ninth inning.
Prior to the game, the Buhner Haircut promotion enticed 512 fans among the crowd of 16,283 to gain free admission by submitting to a "Buhner Buzz."
An apparent deal between Miami and free-agent lefty reliever Joe Beimel, who spent the last two years with the Mariners, now seems to have fallen through…right-hander Blake Beavan, another former Mariner, recently signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2014.
The Mariners and Orioles conclude their three-game series at 9:35 a.m. Pacific time Thursday at Camden Yards. Right-hander Nathan Karns (3-1 with a 3.51 ERA) will face Baltimore right-hander Tyler Wilson (2-1, 2.93).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 SPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
HOME RUNS VS. LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS (2015-16)
Nelson Cruz 19
Kyle Seager 17
Todd Frazier 16
Mark Trumbo 16
Mike Napoli 13
Albert Pujols 13
Alex Rodriguez 13
Adrian Beltre 12
Robinson Cano 12
Josh Donaldson 12
Logan Forsythe 12