The Seattle Mariners finally return home from a 10-day, 9-game road trip which covered New York, Houston and Oakland. The team went from 10-14 and trailing first place by 5.5 games to 17-16 and second place in the AL West, just two games back of the Athletics for first place.
Mariners’ manager Lloyd McClendon was pleased with the team’s effort over the trip but doesn’t want to see the team resting on its 10-day laurels.
“As I told the guys, the trip’s behind us, we’ve got to look forward now. We have a tough team coming in here tonight, we’ve got to be ready to play,” McClendon said.
That “tough team” is the Kansas City Royals (16-17), which the Mariners will see for the next four nights. The Royals currently sit in third place in the AL Central, a full 5.5 games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers (20-10). The Royals have struggled offensively through a power drought. The team has hit the fewest homers in the majors with 14 (San Diego second with 19) and has scored 132 runs in 33 games.
1. Michael Saunders (L) cf
2. Stefen Romero rf
3. Robinson Cano (L) 2b
4. Corey Hart dh
5. Justin Smoak (s) 1b
6. Kyle Seager (L) 3b
7. Cole Gillespie lf
8. Brad Miller (L) ss
9. Mike Zunino c
P Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0, 5.40)
1. Nori Aoki (L) rf
2. Eric Hosmer (L) 1b
3. Billy Butler dh
4. Salvador Perez c
5. Alex Gordon (L) lf
6. Danny Valencia 2b
7. Lorenzo Cain cf
8. Mike Moustakas (L) 3b
9. Alcides Escobar ss
LHP Danny Duffy (1-2, 2.19)
The recently recalled James Jones is sitting against another left-hander in Duffy despite a solid start that has him hitting .400 (4-for-10) with a stolen base and a couple runs scored not to mention some good plays in center. McClendon made it clear that he isn’t trying to protect him against lefties, he just wants to make sure Romero and Gillespie also get time in the outfield.
“This kid is eventually going to be an everyday player,” said McClendon. “I’m not trying to hide him from lefties, it’s just I’m trying to give (Cole Gillespie) a shot. We called him up, too.”
Brad Miller is also back in the lineup despite a rough start to the season. McClendon, though, still holds him in high regard and thinks he’s close to coming out of his slump.
“Well, he’s not playing well right now, obviously. He needs to step it up, he knows that,” said McClendon. “We want to get him relaxed and let him just go out and play his game . . . He’s showing signs of coming out of it. He’s getting a few more walks, got a couple of hits. Hopefully, he’ll have a good game tonight and turn the page.”
Mariners’ starters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have been playing catch for the last 12-14 days, usually separately. Paxton and Walker each threw from 120 feet Thursday and then from 60 feet on flat ground. Paxton will throw a bullpen Friday of 20-25 pitches, mostly fastballs with some changeups mixed in. Walker will throw a bullpen Sunday of 25-30 pitches of the same ilk. Both said they are feeling great in their recovery process.
“We are just busting our butts up here working out, keeping our legs in shape, keeping up with our conditioning and just building the arm strength, just ready to get back,” Walker said.
“Everything is feeling great and no pain back there, I’m feeling strong so looking forward to getting back on the mound and throwing some pitches,” Paxton said.
Meanwhile, outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison remains sidelined with a bum hamstring which is frustratingly taking longer than anybody expected. A timetable for his return is not on the horizon.
“He’s not running well right now,” McClendon said. “Still having problems with the hamstring.”