All-star breaks out of slump with two singles and drives in two runs in 4-1 victory over Rays. Elias allows just one run in six innings.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The prevailing sentiment from the Mariners when it came to Robinson Cano and his recent struggles have been universal: “He’ll be fine,” or some variation of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s manager Lloyd McClendon doing the talking, hitting coach Howard Johnson, teammate Nelson Cruz or the kid chosen to be batboy for that day’s game. They all say and believe pretty much the same thing — Cano will hit.

It’s a differing response from large portions of the team’s fan base, which has fretted and grown frustrated with the all-star second baseman’s slumping start.

Cano helped quell the doubters, for at least a game, driving in a pair of runs with RBI singles in Seattle’s 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. The Mariners (21-23) have won 10 of their last 16 games.

Tuesday

Mariners @ Rays, 4:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

Cano drove in the first run of the game and plated a key insurance run in the top of the eighth inning pushing his RBI total to 13 — sixth most on the team. Is it a small showing of progress?

“I thought that was a real nice outing for Robby,” McClendon said. “The bat speed’s back. He got a couple of big hits. There’s nothing like positive results. The guy’s track record is so good, you know he’s going to hit. You’re just waiting on when. It shows how good we can be from a lineup standpoint when he’s hitting.”

After answering questions about why he wasn’t hitting and the myriad runners he was leaving on base for the last few weeks, Cano was more than happy to discuss something different — success.

“Of course, it feels good when you do your job, especially with men in scoring position and it helps to win a game,” he said. “And in my case, it’s been a struggle with men in scoring position. Hopefully it will start from today.”

Cano came to the plate with runners on first and second with no outs in the first inning against Rays’ starter Jake Odorizzi. He fell behind in the count, but yanked a 2-2 split-finger fastball into right field to score Seth Smith from second.

“I was just looking for something up over the plate and stay way from bad pitches,” he said. “I was able to stay back and use my back leg instead of jumping out there.”

Known for being ultra smooth and impossibly cool on the field, Cano showed some modesty, making a gesture to the dugout and the baseball world as if to say — “finally.”

“You are going to go through good things and bad things and in my career, I’ve been through a lot of good things,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that will make you a stronger and better player.”

It was the first run he had driven in since May 12 against the Padres — a span of 50 plate appearances.

While Cano’s success was unexpected given his recent struggles, Cruz continued his torrid start to the season, lining a single into right field to score Brad Miller.

But that’s all Seattle would get off Odorizzi. He never got into any serious trouble for the next six innings, holding the Mariners scoreless and shaking off his first-inning woes. He finished with seven innings pitched, two runs allowed (one earned) on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

But Seattle starter Roenis Elias made the early two runs stand up to improve to 2-1, going six innings and allowing one run on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

“I battled through the first few innings, but good thing I had good command of my fastball, a good changeup and a good curveball,” Elias said through translator and bullpen coach Mike Rojas.

Elias wasn’t as dominant as his previous outing in Baltimore. Runners reached base in every inning except for the first inning, but the only run that he allowed came in the sixth inning when he left a 1-0 fastball down the middle of the plate to Logan Forsythe, who redirected the pitch deep into left field onto the tarp that hid some of the many empty seats before a crowd of 10,410.

After coming through in the first inning, Cano had no trouble pushing the lead to 3-1 in the eighth against reliever Steve Geltz. Smith led off with a hustling double on his sharp ground ball off the glove of shortstop Tim Beckham. Cano then pulled a hard ground ball through the right side to score Smith.

“It makes it way easier,” Cano said. “At the same time, it’s tough facing a guy you’ve never seen before. I just was able to come through in that situation.”

And with Fernando Rodney ready to pitch in a save situation in the ninth, Mike Zunino added another “just-in-case” run in the ninth inning. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, he came back and worked the count full against reliever Brandon Gomes.

Zunino won the battle when Gomes hung a slider and he obliterated it into the upper deck in left field for his sixth homer of the season.

Rodney provided minimal drama in the ninth. He worked a scoreless inning, despite allowing a two-out single, to pick up his 13th save in 14 chances.

Memorial Day bliss
The Mariners have the best Memorial Day record in the majors since the franchise’s inception in 1977. Here are the top five:
Team Record Win pct.
Seattle 24-12 .666
Boston 22-13 .628
Baltimore 21-13 .617
Toronto 20-13 .606
Cincinnati 20-15 .571
Source: Mariners