By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — Veteran outfielder Endy Chavez, at 36, concedes his success this season stems, at least in part, from pick-and-choose manner in which his playing time is doled out by manager Lloyd McClendon.
And yet …
“He’s giving me some rest,” Chavez said, “and keeping me fresh. But I know I can play every day for a month or something like that. I feel healthy. I feel fine. Everything is running good.”
More than good.
Chavez is on a .381 surge (16-for-42) in 19 games over the last four weeks. Add seven walks over another nine plate appearances, and his on-base percentage jumps to .469 for that span.
His two-run hustle double on a grounder up the middle was a highlight in Tuesday’s 6-5 victory over Oakland, when the Mariners built a six-run lead before holding on for the victory.
“That’s him, though,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “He battles in everything. He’s going to give you a professional at-bat every day. He just goes about his business, and he plays the game the right way.”
Chavez is, in his 13th season, the sort of player whom managers love and teammates appreciate even when his numbers aren’t quite as eye-popping as they’ve been in recent weeks.
“Listen, Endy is a pro,” McClendon said. “You can talk about all of the sabermetric stuff and WAR stuff. Endy Chavez is a baseball player through and through. He gets it done.
“A lot of times, it doesn’t look pretty, but he gets the job done.”
Chavez closed last season with the Mariners — he’s been with eight organizations in his career — and chose to remain in Seattle by signing a minor-league deal on Jan. 3.
The Mariners viewed Chavez as organizational depth and assigned him to Triple-A Tacoma. It wasn’t until his June 1 opt-out date approached, when he could choose to become a free agent, that they brought him to the majors.
Chavez responded, initially, by playing close to his career norms. It wasn’t until the Mariners acquired veteran Chris Denorfia, who provides a right-handed compliment to Chavez’s lefty bat, that Chavez’s production spiked.
McClendon said that’s not a coincidence.
“There’s no question about it,” McClendon said. “We’ve been able to put him in positions where he has the chance to be successful. We don’t expose him against tough left-handers. He’s taken off as a result.”
Not surprisingly, Chavez sat Wednesday when the Mariners faced A’s lefty Jon Lester in the final game of the series.
Right-hander Chris Young appears increasingly likely to hold his spot in the rotation after an encouraging bullpen workout prior to Wednesday’s game.
“Everything went well,” he said. “Felt great. I’m ready to go.”
McClendon raised the possibility of pulling Young from the rotation after a second straight rocky outing in Monday’s 6-1 loss to the A’s. Young failed to survive a five-run first inning.
A decision should come Thursday; McClendon said he wanted to discuss the matter with general manager Jack Zduriencik before making an announcement.
But McClendon sounded encouraged after watching Young’s bullpen session prior to Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the A’s in the series finale.
“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy,” McClendon said. “That’s the only factor that really comes into play. I think we can get a lot from (his bullpen workout).
“His bullpen was good. He threw the ball (well).”
Right-hander Taijuan Walker is the likeliest alternative if Young is deemed unavailable. He held the A’s to one run in six innings Monday after Young was knocked out in a five-run first.
Young is 12-7 with 3.46 ERA, but his status came into question after two disappointing starts and because his workload, at 151 innings, is already higher than in any season since 2007.
Even Corey Hart isn’t sure how he delivered his game-winning homer in the seventh inning against Oakland starter Jon Lester.
“It was a good pitch away,” Hart said. “I don’t know how I hit it. Just swing. I’ve been working out, so maybe that helped.”
It was Hart’s first homer since May 7, and it came in his first game and third at-bat since a bruised right knee forced him to the disabled list after an Aug. 1 game at Baltimore.
The Mariners had just erased a 1-0 deficit on Kyle Seager’s leadoff homer in the seventh inning. Two pitches later, Hart sent a drive to deep left.
“To tie the game is one thing,” Seager said. “But to put us up late in the game like Corey did, that’s a huge at-bat right there.”
It marked the fourth time this season the Mariners hit back-to-back homers, but the first since Seager and Dustin Ackley on May 11 in a 9-7 loss to Kansas City.
Save No. 41 came a lot easier than No. 40.
Fernando Rodney closed out the Mariners’ victories Tuesday and Wednesday in a manner than could not have been more different.
Rodney rolled through the A’s on eight pitches Wednesday in a protecting a 2-1 victory for Felix Hernandez. That came after a wild ride Tuesday when he nearly squandered a three-run lead in the ninth inning.
Still, the result was the same, and Rodney is at 40-plus saves for just the second time in his career. He had 48 in 2012 for Tampa Bay.
“Forty, that’s a very good number,” he said. “I had 40 in my mind (at the beginning of the year), but I’ve got it now, and we’ll keep rolling, right?”
Rodney is also just the third Mariners reliever to reach that plateau. Kazuhiro Sasaki had 45 saves in 2001, and J.J. Putz had 40 in 2007.
Robinson Cano continues to pile up doubles.
He collected No. 31 with an opposite-field drive in the first inning. He had already joined Angels first baseman Albert Pujols as the only players in major-league history to reach 30 in each of his first 10 seasons.
Cano has 406 doubles in his career. Only three players in history have more in their first 10 seasons: Pujols (426), Joe Medwick (416) and Todd Helton (413).
Seager’s homer in the seventh inning was his 22nd of the season, which matched a career high. He also had 22 last year. Seager boosted his RBI count to 85, which is one shy of his career high of 86 in 2012. Denorfia went 0-for-4 and is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. … Felix Hernandez pushed his season’s innings count to 206. He is the first pitcher in franchise history to have six seasons of 200 or more innings and 200 or more strikeouts. … The Mariners have a 9-7 edge in their season series against the A’s after finishing 6-4 at O.co Coliseum. The two teams play three games Sept. 12-14 at Safeco Field.
It was 33 years ago Thursday — Sept. 4, 1981 — that the Mariners beat Boston 8-7 in 20 innings in a game that was suspended the night before after 19 innings because of the American League’s-then 1 a.m. curfew.
The Mariners scored the winning run on Joe Simpson’s two-out RBI triple against Bob Stanley. Future Mariners general manager Jim Beattie then escaped a bases-loaded jam created by Jerry Don Gleaton.
It was the longest game in what was then Fenway Park’s 69-year history. The Mariners then won the regular game 5-2.
The Mariners open a four-game weekend series against Texas at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time Thursday at the Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Rookie left-hander Roenis Elias (9-12 with a 3.97 ERA) will oppose Rangers lefty Robbie Ross Jr. (2-5, 5.63). Root Sports will televise the game.