By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
KANSAS CITY — Sure, we’re talking baby steps, but Seattle Mariners shortstop Brad Miller climbed past the Mendoza Line by going 2-for-3 in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
The two singles boosted Miller’s average to .202 — or two points above the dreaded .200 average that is now widely attributed to one-time Mariners shortstop Mario Mendoza.
“I feel a little bit more like myself,” Miller said. “Just battling. That’s part of it. Every day, you come out, and you face some pretty good guys. You’ve really got to lock in and fight.
“I was able to scratch out a couple of more today.”
Miller hasn’t been above .200 since an 0-for-3 on April 19 dropped his average to .194. He bottomed out at .151 on May 27 before making a slow climb back up.
“He’s getting better,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s starting to swing the bat a little bit. Seeing more pitches. Being a little more selective. Playing the way we thought he should be playing all along.”
Miller is batting .313 over his last 21 games with a .365 on-base percentage.
“It’s two-fold,” he said. “Swing at the right pitches, and when they do come in there, you’ve got to put a good swing on it.”
The December trade that brought Logan Morrison to the Mariners means he now makes one visit each year to Kauffman Stadium, which holds special memories.
Morrison is a Kansas City native.
“It’s special, man,” he said. “I’ve been coming to this place since I was 3 or 4 years old. Watching Carlos Beltran and George Brett. The Astroturf was still on the field. It was always hot like it was today.”
Morrison marked his return Friday by hitting a two-run homer and an RBI single in a 7-5 victory.
“I love playing here,” he said. “My grandma gets to see me play. She did so much for me when I was little. She’s always saying, ‘Hit a home run.’ And my mom is like, ‘Just a single.’ Now, everybody’s happy.”
Veteran outfielder Endy Chavez wasn’t in the starting lineup — and not, apparently, just because the Royals started a left-hander in Jason Vargas.
“Endy’s old,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We can’t kill him. His body aches. It’s hot out there. It was a tough game. I had to sit him at some point. He’s going to play (Sunday). So I sat him today.”
Chavez, 36, has started 13 of 22 games since his May 30 promotion from Class AAA Tacoma. He is batting .238 with a .258 on-base percentage and a .317 slugging percentage in 68 plate appearances.
Fernando Rodney reached the 20-save mark for the third straight season and the fourth time in his career. He is on pace to finish with 43. His career best was 48 in 2012 with Tampa Bay. … Robinson Cano’s road hitting streak ended at 21 games when he went 0-for-4. … The Mariners’ 19 victories in games when opponents start a left-hander are the most in the majors. … The Mariners hold a 4-2 lead in the season series against the Royals with one game remaining. … It was 91 degrees when Jason Vargas delivered the game’s first pitch. That made it the hottest game of the season for the Mariners. Previous high was 89 degrees for Friday’s series opener.
Hi-A High Desert right-hander Dylan Unsworth was picked as Baseball America’s pitcher of the day after striking out 12 in seven innings Friday in a 7-0 victory at Modesto (Rockies).
Unsworth, 21, gave up three hits and didn’t walk anyone. It was a highlight in what has been a tough season: Unsworth is 5-6 overall in 14 starts with a 6.46 ERA.
The Mariners signed Unsworth, a native of South Africa, as a non-drafted free agent in 2009.
It was 20 years ago Sunday — June 22, 1994 — that Ken Griffey hit his 31st homer of the season in a 12-3 romp over the Angels in Anaheim. That set a major-league record for homers through June.
Babe Ruth held the previous record at 30 in 1928 and 1930.
Griffey finished the month with 32 and ended the season at 40 … 1994 was the strike year; the season ended on Aug. 11.
The Mariners and Royals conclude their three-game weekend series at 11:10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
Lefty Roenis Elias (6-5 with a 3.91 ERA) will face Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura (5-5, 3.26) in a matchup of rookies. Root Sports will carry the game.
The Mariners open a six-game homestand Monday with the first of three games against Boston at Safeco Field.