Ketel Marte had two hits, including a double, and scored twice, and Cruz finished 3 for 5 with a three RBI and his 39th home run of the season to help Hernandez earn his 15th win and lead the Mariners to a comfortable 8-2 victory Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Felix Hernandez and Nelson Cruz were outstanding throughout the Mariners’ 8-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field, just as they’ve been — with a few notable blips — all season.
Hernandez shrugged off a leadoff home run by Billy Burns and a string of recent underwhelming starts to last eight innings, earning his 15th win of the season. manager Lloyd McClendon lauded Cruz’s MVP considerations before the game, and the slugger backed his manager with three hits, three RBI and his American League-leading 39th home run of season.
Yet for all of their individual plaudits, the Mariners’ stars have been unable to stop the losses from overtaking the wins in the team’s record (59-68). And as the calendar prepares to turn to September with the playoff race a mere pipe dream, attention is instead turning toward the future.
So it felt appropriate that Hernandez and Cruz ceded some of the spotlight Wednesday to rookie Ketel Marte, the live-wire 21-year-old who is riding a 13-game on-base streak and pitched in two hits, sparked two scoring rallies and scored two runs.
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Cruz, who mostly dodged questions about his MVP candidacy — “If I get lucky enough to be considered, I’m blessed,” was the closest he came to stoking the hype — offered a veteran’s compliment to Marte.
“He looks like he’ll be here a while,” Cruz said.
After Hernandez rallied from Burns’ leadoff shot with three consecutive outs in the top of the first, Marte opened the bottom half with a sharp single. His line drive looked like a double off the bat, only for a bounce right at Oakland left fielder Coco Crisp to strand him at first. Marte didn’t stay there long.
Kyle Seager moved Marte to second with a ground out, and Cruz drove him in with a hard single through the left side. The Mariners rifled off five hits in quick succession off Oakland starter Chris Bassitt.
Robinson Cano singled, and Seth Smith doubled to score Cruz. Mark Trumbo blooped an RBI single into right field, and Logan Morrison followed with a sharp liner to push the lead to 4-1.
Marte, who is batting .333 since being called up from Class AAA Tacoma at the end of July, also led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, later scoring on Cruz’s single.
“I think he has shown the ability over a short period of time that he’s capable of being a solid leadoff guy,” McClendon said of the rookie. “I’m not ready to anoint him. He’s going to have his struggles. He’s going to make mistakes. All young players do. But I think at the end he’s going to be a player that we’re all going to be proud of.
“It’s always important to get off to a good start. You never want a young player to come up and get buried.”
That’s been the fate of many Mariners prospects, rushed through the system to sink in the majors. If nothing else, Marte has been a temporary burst of light in an otherwise dreary August.
And unlike some of those past wunderkinds, Marte doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. His locker sits next to that of fellow Dominican Republic native Cano in the Mariners’ clubhouse, and Cruz’s stall sits just around the bend on the back wall.
“If you’re working hard every day, you want to be like Nelson,” Marte said. “Because he comes every day of the year, working hard, in the cage, whatever. And you see what happens.”
Hernandez had long since sewn up the victory with eight strong innings — scattering three hits and striking out seven — when Seager and Cruz went back-to-back in the bottom of that frame. Seager broke out of a 2-for-30 slump with a high-arcing solo shot over the right-field fence.
Cruz followed with a no-doubter to left-center. He took his time rounding the bases, the crowd of 23,338 at Safeco cheering him on and soaking in a rare easy win.