For weeks now, Robinson Cano has insisted he feels good and is hitting the ball hard. That nothing was wrong. It was just a matter of time before fortune smiled.
“I’ve been hitting the ball hard a lot,” he said, “but right at guys. All you can do is keep swinging. But I’m always going to be positive. It’s never too late.”
The numbers are turning.
Cano boosted his average to .260 by going 4 for 8 in the past two games against Detroit. OK, that’s still 50 points below his career average coming into the season, but the last time he was at .260 was May 21.
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And, yes, he feels different.
“I’ve hit a lot of balls hard,” Cano said, “but when you start getting hits — it’s different. You don’t have to think what you’re doing wrong and what you have to do to get those hits.”
Cano has a .347 average over 20 games in July with five doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .388 and his slugging percentage is .613.
Since, his slash is .313/.350/.565 over 28 games, which roughly mirrors his pre-2015 career production of .310/.358/.499.
“I’ve been saying all along that Robby is Robby,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and that Robby is going to hit. The numbers on the back of the bubble-gum cards don’t lie. This guy is a star.”
Cano batted cleanup Wednesday for the third consecutive game.
“I kind of like it,” McClendon said. “I see him staying there for a while.”
The move stems from the decision to shift Kyle Seager from fifth to second in the lineup — and McClendon’s desire to keep Nelson Cruz’s right-handed bat between Seager and Cano, who are left-handed hitters.
“Just making it tough (for opponents) to match up,” McClendon explained.
Attention focused recently on a stomach ailment that Cano battled last year due to a parasite he contracted. Many observers pointed to that as a prime cause for his decline.
Cano admitted he’s still affected at times by the disorder, but he insisted it was far worse last season — when he produced a healthy .314/.382/.454 slash in 157 games.
“I’m still battling it,” he acknowledged, “but I’ve learned how to deal with that. At first, I didn’t know how to deal with it. But now, I’m eating better, and I’m feeling a little better.”
The numbers confirm that.
A BREAK FOR ZUNINO
Backup catcher Jesus Sucre is in line for a rare start Thursday when the Mariners complete their four-game stay in Detroit.
For one overriding reason: Ironman Mike Zunino is 1 for 10 in his career with nine strikeouts against Tigers left-hander David Price. Even for Zunino, who is batting .165, those are brutal numbers.
Zunino leads all catchers this season in games played with 86 and, entering Wednesday, ranked second (by one inning) to Kansas City’s Salvy Perez in innings played among American League catchers.
“Sure, I’m concerned (about the workload),” McClendon said. “But we had the (All-Star) break. We had four days off. We went to New York, and the schedule permitted him to play all three games.”
Sucre has started only 10 times this season, including twice since June 21. He is batting .038 with one hit in 26 at-bats. He has never faced Price.
NO EXTRA PICK
The Mariners came up losers Wednesday when Major League Baseball held its competitive-balance lottery for additional picks in next year’s draft.
The lottery awards 12 picks — six after each of the first two rounds — to clubs that play in one of the 10 smallest markets, have one of the 10 smallest revenue streams or receive revenue sharing.
Fifteen clubs qualified for the lottery. Only the Mariners, Kansas City and St. Louis failed to gain an additional pick.
The Mariners used a competitive-balance pick in June to select pitcher Andrew Moore from Oregon State with the 72nd overall pick.
This year, finally, the Mariners are getting even with reliever Neftali Feliz, who gave up five runs Tuesday in the eighth inning. Franklin Gutierrez’s grand slam capped the rally in an 11-9 victory over the Tigers.
The Mariners also rapped Feliz for two runs and four hits over 11/3 innings on April 19 while he was pitching for Texas. Those runs produced an 11-10 walk-off victory after the Mariners once trailed by five runs.
Before this year, Feliz had owned the Mariners: 3-0 with an 0.00 ERA while striking out 26 and permitting seven hits in 26 innings. He also had 11 saves in 11 chances.
The Mariners acquired minor-league reliever Tyler Knigge, a right-hander, from Philadelphia in a cash transaction and assigned him to Double-A Jackson.
Knigge, 26, is 0-0 with a 4.97 ERA this season in 28 appearances at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is 19-14 with a 3.51 ERA in 230 games over a six-year pro career.
The Phillies selected Knigge, who attended Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State College, in the 12th round of the 2010 draft.
It was three years ago — July 23, 2012 — that the Mariners traded outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for minor-league pitchers Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell.
Suzuki simply walked down the hall because the Yankees opened a three-game series later that day at Safeco Field. He played right field that night, batted eighth and went 1 for 4 in the Yankees’ 4-1 victory.
Nelson Cruz has four multi-homer games this season and 17 in his career. He also had 19 road homers (among his 24), which leads the majors. … Mike Montgomery’s ERA jumped from 2.43 to 3.25 by allowing six earned runs in the third inning. … Austin Jackson went 2 for 4 and is 11 for 29 (.379) in his past seven games. … Franklin Gutierrez’s grand slam in Tuesday’s victory was the fourth of the season for the Mariners, who didn’t have any in 2014. It was also the fourth grand slam in the Mariners’ past 33 plate appearances with the bases loaded.
The Mariners and Tigers conclude their four-game series at 10:08 a.m. Pacific time Thursday at Comerica Park. Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-1, 4.89) will face Detroit lefty David Price (9-3, 2.32).
The Mariners open a six-game homestand Friday with the first of three games against Toronto at Safeco Field. The homestand continues next week with three games against Arizona.
July batting leaders
Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels: .411 (23 for 56)
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox: .410 (25 for 61)
Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals: .400 (24 for 60)
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays: .365 (19 for 52)
Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners: .352 (25 for 71)