Mariners Continue Winning Ways

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For Seattle manager Scott Servais it’s easy to see why Robinson Cano is so successful with runners in scoring position.

”He uses the whole field,” Servais said. ”He’s not trying to hit homers. He’s not trying to kill the ball. He’s just using his hands.”

He did that again on Thursday night, driving in four runs including a tiebreaking three-run double in the ninth inning to lift the Mariners to their fourth straight win, 6-3 over the Houston Astros

The bases were loaded with one out in the ninth when Cano cleared them with his double off Luke Gregerson (0-1) that sailed just out of reach of center fielder Carlos Gomez.

”I’ve been looking for my pitch,” Cano said. ”I’m not trying to do too much. Even if you can get one run at a time, sometimes as a hitter if you’re trying to get two or three, that’s when (bad) things happen. I’m just trying to work the middle of the field.”

Houston manager A.J. Hinch was disappointed that his bullpen put Cano in the situation to come up with such a big hit.

”Cano … is a dangerous hitter,” Hinch said. ”He gets even more dangerous as the stakes get a little higher.”

Cano, who had three hits to give him at least two in five straight games, also drove in a run in the third inning to give him four RBIs and an American League-leading 30 this season.

”If you look at the at-bats he finds a way to get into good counts,” Servais said. ”He’s aggressive but he’s looking for his pitch.”

Nick Vincent (2-1) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the win and Steve Cishek allowed one hit in the ninth for his ninth save.

Jose Altuve homered and tied a career-high with four hits and had two RBIs for the Astros.

Tyler White snapped a 0 for 16 skid with a double to start Houston’s seventh and Jason Castro walked with one out. Altuve hit a double, which landed on Tal’s Hill in center field, scoring White to tie it at 3-3, but Castro was tagged out at home.

Norichika Aoki greeted Tony Sipp with a single to load the bases in the seventh before Seth Smith’s groundball single rolled just out of reach of a diving Altuve and into right field to score two and make it 3-2.

Altuve, who leads the Astros with nine homers, gave them an early lead when he sent Wade Miley’s third pitch onto the train tracks atop left field for his second straight leadoff homer and major league-leading sixth this season. His six leadoff homers are the most by an Astro since Craig Biggio also had six in 2006.

Cano’s RBI single tied it at 1-1 in the third inning. The Astros took a 2-1 lead on an RBI single by Evan Gattis in the sixth inning.

Houston starter Chris Devenski allowed six hits and one run in six innings in his second start and eighth major league appearance.

Miley allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings.

SECOND BASE ADMIRATION

Cano is a big fan of fellow second baseman Altuve and said he enjoys watching him play. ”He’s a guy that anytime he swings you know something good is going to happen,” Cano said. ”It’s always fun to watch guys, especially at second base, be (as) successful as he’s been the last 3-4 years. He’s great.”

 

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Seahawks…Re-Stocking or Re-Loading in the 2016 Draft?

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Every few minutes on Tuesday, John Schneider’s phone would ding while resting next to him on the table.

Another message for Seattle’s general manager in the hours leading up to an important NFL draft for the Seahawks.

Seattle will have nine total picks when the draft begins on Thursday, including the No. 26 overall pick in the first round. After middling draft results in recent years, the Seahawks have needs at a number of positions – most notably on the offensive and defensive lines – that could be solved in the short and long term with a successful weekend of selections.

Since the 2012 draft where the Seahawks landed a bounty of future stars, including quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle’s draft success has fallen off. But that was a transition year when Seattle went from building a championship contender to now trying to maintain its place among the NFL elite. And with veteran free-agent additions and finding a few undrafted gems, simply getting on the roster for players drafted by the Seahawks has become a challenge.

”It’s been harder to make our team since the ’13 draft, `14 draft,” Schneider said. ”Some drafts are stronger than others – how many of these guys really have a legitimate chance of making our team? It’s been harder for us to figure out who has a legitimate chance to make our team.”

Schneider said he views this draft as the deepest since arriving in Seattle in 2010. That means there could be more late-round gems for the Seahawks to unearth and potentially more options among undrafted rookie free agents, an area in which Seattle has excelled in finding future contributors.

But it’ll be the early rounds where much of the attention will fall on the Seahawks. Seattle has four selections among the Top 100 picks and that’s assuming the Seahawks keep their first-round pick at No. 26. Seattle has not made a pick in the first round since 2012.

”This is our seventh (draft) and this is the most impressive one to us in terms of the sheer number of players,” Schneider said.

Most of the attention has fallen on the needs along the offensive and defensive lines after losing some key starters during free agency. Guard J.R. Sweezy and tackle Russell Okung departed from the offensive line, while defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin left along the defensive line. And while Seattle has options already on its roster that can fill those spots, coach Pete Carroll’s mantra of always wanting to create competition likely means those positions will be addressed during the draft.

”We don’t grade for the league, we grade for our team. And when you do that, that represents what your board ends up looking like,” Schneider said. ”You’re going to have specific needs at different positions based on people that you’ve lost on free agency or if a guy that you drafted isn’t coming through at a specific position. It’s really a combination of the two.”

NOTES: Carroll said RB Thomas Rawls (ankle) and TE Jimmy Graham (knee) are continuing to recover from major injuries suffered late last season: ”Everything is going well. Everything is in good shape. As they push to get back, we’ll just have to see what the timeline tells us.” … Schneider said the signing of veteran DE Chris Clemons was in part because of the hope that he could take on Irvin’s role as a third-down pass rusher. Carroll added that the Seahawks have a specific plan for how they intend to use recently signed CB Brandon Browner, who was with Seattle through the 2013 season, but he declined to expand on what Browner’s role will be. ”We’re going to do some different things with him you’ll see in the future.”

Mariners Travel to New York

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Robinson Cano has regained his power stroke just in time for a return to his former home.

Having ended a five-game losing streak, Cano’s Seattle Mariners begin a long road trip Friday night against the New York Yankees feeling better as well.

After scoring seven runs over the skid, Seattle (3-6) got just enough offense to salvage Wednesday’s finale of a six-game homestand. Cano hit his fifth home run in nine games and pinch-hitter Dae-Ho Lee had a two-run shot with two out in the 10th inning to deliver a 4-2 victory over Texas.

”Really great effort by our club (Wednesday),” manager Scott Servais said. ”Exciting game. We really, really needed it.”

Though the Mariners enter this three-game series – the first of nine straight on the road – on an uplifting note, they remain searching for more consistency from a lineup that’s been mostly feast-or-famine. Twenty of their 32 runs have come via 14 homers and they’re hitting .170 while going 4 of 36 with runners in scoring position over the last six games.

Cano is just 1 for 16 over the past four, though his early power surge is encouraging after producing 35 homers over his first two seasons in Seattle. The star second baseman recorded five straight of 25 or more playing half his games in the left-handed hitters’ haven of Yankee Stadium, where his 81 home runs trail only Mark Teixeira for most in the venue’s history.

A visit to the Bronx also could help Kyle Seager break out of his 5-of-33 slump, as he’s 10 for 25 with three homers in his last six at New York.

Seattle gets its first look at Luis Severino, who struggled in the cold conditions of Detroit in last Friday’s season debut. The promising 22-year-old allowed a career-high 10 hits and three runs in five-plus innings of a 4-0 loss.

“I think I was throwing the ball good,” he said. “I missed a couple of pitches, and I paid for that. My slider was good, but I made a couple of mistakes with that.”

Severino went 3-2 with a 3.16 ERA in five home starts as a rookie in 2015, though he permitted five homers in 25 2-3 innings.

New York (4-4) returns home on its first losing streak of the season after dropping two straight in Toronto. Its offense managed only three singles in eight innings off Marcus Stroman in Thursday’s 4-2 defeat.

”(Stroman) didn’t give us many opportunities,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Brian McCann did return to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s 7-2 loss with a bruised left toe. The veteran catcher is 10 for 22 over a season-opening six-game hitting streak.

McCann is 2 for 9 against Nathan Karns, who takes a second shot at a first victory as a Mariner. Acquired from Tampa Bay in a six-player trade in November, the right-hander fanned six but surrendered four runs in five innings in Saturday’s 6-1 loss to Oakland.

“I feel like I didn’t pitch bad, I just had bad results at times,” he said. “If I take out that full-count pitch (a two-run homer to Josh Reddick), maybe it’s a 2-1 ballgame going into the sixth. That’s just the way I look at it, just a couple pitches away from where I want to be.”

Karns struck out 28 over 21 2-3 innings while going 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in four starts against New York last season.

The Mariners have lost eight of nine in the series but have won six of eight at Yankee Stadium.

Mariners Home Opener

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For the second straight season, young Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker will make his season debut against the Oakland Athletics.

Almost any result will be better than Walker’s first start against the A’s to begin last year. He gave up nine earned runs, nine hits and didn’t make it through the fourth inning.

”I definitely want to go out there and have a good outing against them, because last year they got me pretty well. I guess a little payback this time,” Walker said.

The Mariners return to the Pacific Northwest on Friday night to kick off their home slate with a three-game series against the A’s. Friday will include all pomp and circumstance of a traditional opening day – including new Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. throwing out the first pitch – plus some curiosity about this year’s Mariners.

Can the power surge Seattle displayed in Texas, led by four home runs by Robinson Cano, continue at home?

The Mariners hit nine home runs in the three-game series in Texas, where Seattle won two of three and likely should have swept. Cano was the instigator of the power surge, becoming the 29th player in major league history to homer in each of the first three games of the season.

It’ll be the task of Oakland lefty Eric Surkamp to try to slow the Mariners. Surkamp is replacing Felix Doubront, who suffered an elbow sprain in his final spring training start last week.

Surkamp appeared in one game last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing four runs in 3 1-3 innings, and his last start came in 2013 for San Francisco.

“At the beginning of the spring, we didn’t see him in the rotation, but he earned it,” manager Bob Melvin told MLB’s official website.

He’ll be opposed by Walker, who finished last season with an 11-8 mark and a 4.56 ERA. The Mariners didn’t want to overwork his arm so he didn’t pitch in late September after reaching 169 innings.

Walker admitted at times last season to pitching with the worry of being sent to the minors if he struggled, but said he’s more comfortable with his position this year.

”I feel pretty good where I’m at right now,” Walker said. ”I know (James) Paxton’s down there waiting, and he’s really good and any time he can come up here. I know I have to go out there and get my work in, and pretty much do my job and do what I can to help my teammates.”

New Seattle manager Scott Servais said the key for Walker on Friday and throughout the season is going to be his secondary pitches and not always relying on his fastball.

”I think he will be juiced up, but I think you’ll see a really good fastball,” Servais said. ”The thing with Taijuan is the secondary stuff, can he harness it, can he get it in the strike zone and be the complete pitcher, and doesn’t get locked into one pitch. I’m excited for him to get that opportunity and I think he’s ready for it.”

Friday will also be the home debut for Servais as manager. He won over many of his players and fans with a fiery display in Tuesday’s 10-2 win when he yelled and pointed at the Texas bench after Chris Iannetta was hit by a pitch.

”I know the city is excited, a lot of change, a lot of good vibe around our organization,” Servais said. ”Rightly so, and I think they’re going to like watching us play.”

The fans enjoyed watching them play the A’s in 2015, as the Mariners went 13-6 in the series.

Nelson Cruz spurred that success, hitting .333 with five homers and 12 RBIs. A matchup against Surkamp will be favorable to the slugger, whose 14 homers against lefties last season were tied for the most in the majors and .357 average versus southpaws was fourth-best.

The A’s opened 2016 by dropping three of four at home to the Chicago White Sox. Offense was their biggest problem as they scored 10 runs while batting .212 with six extra-base hits.

Mark Canha has hit Oakland’s lone home run and went 3 for 3 with a homer against Walker last season.

 

Mariners Open 2016 Season in Texas

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Seattle’s Scott Servais will soon be where Jeff Banister was with Texas a year ago – making his debut as a big league manager and hoping to lift a team with questions back into contention.

Banister’s advice when they face each other on opening day in Texas on Monday was simple.

”Exhale,” Banister said. ”Enjoy it. It’ll be a flash and memory.”

Servais will send ace Felix Hernandez to the mound for his eighth straight opening day start and ninth overall for the Mariners, who have the longest playoff drought in baseball at 14 seasons.

Seattle has won all eight openers started by Hernandez, with the soon-to-be 30-year-old right-hander going 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA.

”A lot of firsts are about to happen,” Servais said. ”I’ve never managed a major league game. There are some things that are going to continue to evolve in how I handle the game, but as far as my dealing with players and our team, I think it’s been very consistent, I think very transparent.”

There will be a first for Banister, too. He is starting Cole Hamels, acquired in a trade-deadline deal last July that was made with an eye on the future but ended up boosting the present. The Rangers made a surprising run to the AL West banner, which will be raised before the opener.

The left-hander has been battling cold and allergy symptoms in recent days but expects to take the mound for his third opening-day start. The other two were with Philadelphia, where he spent his first nine-plus seasons. Hernandez and Hamels have the most combined opening-day starts among pitchers matched in this year’s openers, according to STATS.

”Felix and I have been in the big leagues about the same amount of time,” Hamels said. ”We’ve kind of had the same kind of repertoire. I’ve always looked at him as one of the best pitchers in the game and somebody you want to face in big games. That’s what makes the enjoyment for the fans and for us.”

Seattle debuts yet another overhauled lineup around core players Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz, who became a slugging star when the Rangers went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. Another former Ranger, Leonys Martin, is the Mariners’ new center fielder.

For the most part, the Rangers bring back the same team that lost the deciding game of an AL Division Series at Toronto when three consecutive errors were followed by Jose Bautista’s bat-flipping home run.

The biggest change for Texas is converted shortstop Ian Desmond taking over in left field while Josh Hamilton (left knee surgery) starts the season on the disabled list for the second straight year.

And then there’s the change for Banister, who a year ago was a rookie manager taking over a 95-loss team with no expectations.

”A hundred and sixty-two plus five. That’s the difference,” said Banister, the reigning AL Manager of the Year. ”I will have the same butterflies in my stomach, the same lump in my throat, the same chills. I hope I never lose that feeling.”

 

Mariner Legend Dave Henderson Passes

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Former major league outfielder Dave Henderson, best remebered for his dramatic home run in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, died Sunday. He was 57.

Henderson debuted with the Mariners in 1981 and played in the big leagues through 1994. He was a key member of the A’s when the team made three straight World Series appearances from 1988 to 1990, winning it all in the earthquake series of 1989. He also played in the 1986 World Series as a member of the Red Sox.

Boston may never have been in that Fall Classic in the first place had it not been for Henderson’s heroics. The California Angels were leading the ALCS 3-1 when Henderson came to bat with two outs and the Angels leading 5-4 in the top of the ninth. With two strikes, he hit a two-run homer to give the Red Sox the lead. The Angels tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Boston won the game in the 11th on Henderson’s sacrifice fly and eventually won the series.

A .258/.320/.436 lifetime hitter with 197 homers, Henderson was an AL All-Star in 1991. He was mostly a center fielder throughout his career.

Mariners Find New Manager

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The Seattle Mariners will name Scott Servais their manager on Friday, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Servais has worked with new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto in the past, holding assistant general manager position while Dipoto was the general manager of the Angels. Dipoto resigned in July after friction with manager Mike Scioscia over how the team should be run.

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With Los Angeles, Servais managed scouting and player development.

During his 11-year major league career, Servais played in 820 games with the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies.

Mariners Fire McClendon after Two Seasons!!!

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┬áThe Seattle Mariners have fired manager Lloyd McClendon after two seasons, with new general manager Jerry Dipoto choosing to bring in his own field boss to take over Seattle’s operations.

Seattle announced the decision on McClendon on Friday, less than a week after the Mariners concluded a disappointing 76-86 season. Seattle started the year with expectations of contenting in the AL West and reaching the postseason, but instead finished in fourth place in the division.

Dipoto was hired to replace Jack Zduriencik the final week of the regular season and said he would take his time evaluating whether McClendon would return. McClendon was under contract for the 2016 season.

Seahawks Face Tough Test In Cincy

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While Cincinnati has cruised to an undefeated start through the season’s quarter mark, Seattle is by some accounts lucky to not be 1-3.

The Bengals will try to reach 5-0 for the first time in 27 years Sunday against the visiting Seahawks, who might need more than a batted ball to better Andy Dalton.

After last Sunday’s 36-21 home win over Kansas City, Cincinnati is 4-0 for the first time since 2005 and seeking its first 5-0 record since a franchise-best 6-0 start in 1988 preceded its most recent trip to the Super Bowl.

“We started the season with a special intent, and that’s to be great,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “We’re not satisfied with being good anymore.”

The guy Whitworth is protecting has thus far followed through, in part because the offensive line has done its job. Dalton and the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick are the only qualifying quarterbacks to be sacked just twice.

The Cincinnati signal caller was 17 of 24 for 321 yards and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Tate, giving him nine TDs and one interception. His 123.0 passer rating is easily his best through four games and trails only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill have provided a more balanced rushing attack than anticipated with Bernard out-touching presumed starter Hill 66 to 51 and outgaining him on the ground 5.50 yards per carry to 3.26. Hill, however, provided the red-zone punch with three scores against the Chiefs.

All said, the Bengals’ average of 422.0 yards of total offense trails only New England (446.3) and their 30.4 points per game is ranked fourth. They’re also winning by an average of 11.0 points.

“It’s what we expect from this offense,” Dalton said. “We’ve got everybody back, we’re healthy. We’ve done a great job so far getting to 4-0.”

Seattle (2-2), however, could present a greater challenge, even to a Cincinnati team that’s 16-2-1 at home with an average winning margin of 9.8 points since Dec. 30, 2012.

The Seahawks have recovered from an 0-2 start mostly with strong defense, holding Chicago and Detroit to a combined 10 points and 402 yards. Their 17.8 points per game allowed is tied for third, while their 278.8 yards of total offense surrendered per game trails only Denver (275.5).

In Monday’s 13-10 win over the Lions, those numbers got some help from Kam Chancellor’s forced fumble in the closing minutes and an ensuing controversial touchback after K.J. Wright batted the ball through the back of the end zone.

Despite being admittedly fortunate, they feel they’re coming together after allowing 713 yards through two games.

“Give us an inch and we protected it,” Earl Thomas said. “It just feels so good. I think we just need games like this for us to come together.”

The defense has given an inconsistent offense a chance, and a lot of those struggles with the ball have to do with the offensive line. Russell Wilson is tied with Alex Smith at a league-high 18 sacks, and Wilson’s 12.4 percent sack rate on passing plays is the league’s highest. Dalton’s (1.7) trails only Fitzpatrick.

Wilson absorbed six sacks for the second time this year and lost two fumbles, but through it all he still managed to go 20 of 26 for a season-high 287 yards.

Seattle also was held to 3.55 yards per carry from the running game for its lowest single-game average over the past 20 contests, including the playoffs. Over that span, it’s averaged 5.08 per rush.

“It’s not as good as we needed it to be. The protection; we didn’t run the ball as well as we wanted tonight and we obviously had trouble protecting,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We just have to help those guys more.”

On the ground, that’s been complicated by health. Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) didn’t face the Lions, and Fred Jackson suffered a high-ankle sprain. Fill-in starter Thomas Rawls was limited to 48 yards on 17 carries.

Cincinnati might present an opportunity for that to improve. After an impressive Week 1 in Oakland, the Bengals have surrendered an average of 404.3 yards of total offense, which ranks fifth-worst in that time. Their opponent third-down rate was 25.0 percent in Week 1. Since, it’s 41.9.

“You want to play better, but you have to stop them on third down and that prevents yardage,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “We had some third downs that we allowed them to convert, and we have to do a better job of that.”