Seattle’s second baseman leads the American League with 11 home runs and 32 RBI.

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HOUSTON — Sure it’s May, and way too early to think of such things, but whispers of “MVP, MVP, MVP” can be heard with each big hit Robinson Cano delivers for the Mariners.

There is little doubt Cano has been the most important player for Seattle in the first 30 games of the season.

After seeing his team give up a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning on a solo home run, Cano answered with a solo homer of his own — his second of the game — in the top of the 10th to provide the difference Saturday in a 3-2 victory over Houston.


Mariners @ Houston, 11:10 a.m., ROOT Sports

The Mariners improved to 18-12 and have won 16 of their past 22 games. They also have won the past six games decided by one run.

Down 1-2 in the count against veteran left-hander Tony Sipp, Cano went with an outside fastball and drove it over the left-field wall.

“He’s really tough,” Cano said of Sipp. “I was just looking for something up because I know he has a nasty split and a slider too. I wasn’t looking for anything other than something over the plate.”

How hot has Cano been? Seattle manager Scott Servais predicted Cano’s homer to bench coach Tim Bogar in the 10th.

“It’s unbelievable the run he’s had and certainly the damage he’s done against the Astros,” Servais said. “We’re sitting on the bench and I said to Bogey, ‘Man, he needs to hit one in the Crawford Boxes.’ I’ll be danged if he didn’t do it. It’s crazy.”

But Servais wasn’t the only one to predict the homer. A young Astros fan seated near the Mariners’ on-deck circle did the same thing.

“The funny thing was the little kid,” Cano said. “He had on an Astros shirt. And he was like, ‘I know you’re going to hit a homer so can I have your bat.’ I hit the homer. So I signed one. Not the same one, but I gave him a bat. He was a little kid. He was like 10.”

Cano finished with four hits in five at-bats, including the two homers, and raised his average to .306. He now leads the American League in home runs with 11 and RBI with 32.

“You know me,” he said. “It’s all about winning games, and to be able to take advantage of a situation like that and be able to hit a homer, it makes it more special.”

Given a reprieve after blowing the save situation in the ninth, Mariners closer Steve Cishek picked up the victory instead, pitching a perfect 10th.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I knew I was going back out there anyway. The coaches didn’t even have to say anything. When he hit that out, I just wanted another chance at it. He’s just an incredible hitter.”

Cishek was vying for his 10th save of the season when he entered in the ninth to protect a 2-1 lead. But he misplaced a 1-1 fastball over the middle to Luis Valbuena. Even though Valbuena hadn’t homered this season and was hitting just .174, he was ready for it. He hammered the pitch into the right-field seats to tie the game.

“I schlepped a fastball, too much middle,” Cishek said. “I was just trying to be aggressive. I know he’s been kind of grinding lately so I wasn’t trying to be too picky with him. I was just trying to get an early out and, unfortunately, I left him a cookie to hit and he put a good swing on it.”

Seattle was in position to beat reigning Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel for the second time this season as Kyle Seager opened the scoring with a homer, his seventh this season, in the third inning. Seager jumped on a first-pitch fastball.

It was the same approach Cano used in his first three at-bats — all of which resulted in hits — the biggest being a solo homer to right in the third to make it 2-0.

“Yeah, I was looking early,” Cano said. “I mean, it was working, so why not swing. So that’s why.”

After Seattle starter Nathan Karns cruised through the first five innings, the Astros finally got to him in the sixth for a run. But Karns showed some mettle, leaving two runners on base with two strikeouts to end the inning.

Karns found more trouble in the seventh, and this time his bullpen bailed him out as Nick Vincent came in and got a pair of ground-ball outs to end the inning.

Karns worked 61/3  innings, giving up just the one run on six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts.

“He was really cruising early; it was nice to see,” Servais said. “Really came out with a lively fastball, probably the best he’s had all year. He’s continuing to mature and grow and the confidence is really growing with him.”

30 great games
Robinson Cano has 32 RBI in the Mariners’ first 30 games this season. The franchise leaders:
Player RBI Year
Ken Griffey Jr. 35 1997
Robinson Cano 32 2016
Alex Rodriguez 31 2000
Edgar Martinez 30 2000