Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners face the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Seattle will have a decision to make at second base in the next week when Robinson Cano returns from an 80-day suspension on Aug. 14. But for the time being -- and maybe for the foreseeable future -- the job is Dee Gordon's to win or lose.
Gordon was at second Monday, batted in the leadoff spot and had a hit and a strikeout in six trips to the plate in Seattle's 4-3, 12-inning victory over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington in the first contest of the three-game series between the American League West rivals.
The Mariners will send struggling ace right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-9, 5.49 ERA) to the mound Tuesday while Texas will counter with ageless right-hander Bartolo Colon (5-10, 5.18).
Gordon moved from the outfield to second base when Cano was suspended and has been steady defensively. But his on-base percentage has been only .286 over his 54 games between June 1 and Monday.
"When the offense is clicking, and everything is working and you're scoring four or five runs every night, it's not a big deal," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "When you're not, you have to look at it."
Gordon is batting .283, but rarely draws walks. If Cano does come back to the lineup next week at second base, he won't be batting leadoff -- like Gordon has. The American League average on-base percentage for the year heading into Monday's game was .317, and the MLB average was .319.
"It all starts with on-base," Servais told MLB.com. "Typically, you want guys at the top of the lineup that are on-base league average or well above league average. Dee is not because he does it with the hit, but there's not much else to help it. We're looking at it and trying to figure out ways to put guys in the best spot to help our team score runs."
Meanwhile, the Rangers could be getting back one of their key offensive cogs soon as well as outfielder Nomar Mazara is set to begin a rehab assignment this week after being out since July 14 with a sprained right thumb.
He has been able to take full batting practice with his teammates, but because the injury is on his glove hand, getting back to being able to field a baseball has been just as important as swinging a bat.
"I am doing everything," Mazara said. "Play catch, take ground balls, fly balls, hitting. It is getting stronger every day. Obviously, the soreness is going to be there. The doctor said it is not going to go away. In a couple of weeks, I should be good to go."
Hernandez is set to make his 397th major league start when he takes the mound in Arlington. He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in seven of his last eight starts and has tossed five-plus innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs in 15 of his 22 outings this season. Hernandez had a no-decision in his last start, a Mariners loss versus Toronto on Thursday.
Hernandez is 19-24 with a 4.07 ERA across 56 career starts against Texas, including 0-0, 6.10 in two turns against the Rangers in 2018.
The 45-year-old Colon will make his 23rd appearance and 21st start of the season Tuesday. He enters the game with 245 career wins, tied with Nicaragua's Dennis Martinez for most in MLB history by a native of Latin America, and will be making a sixth attempt at the record, as he has gone 0-5, with a 6.46 ERA in his last five outings.
Colon will be in search of his first win since June 30 at Chicago and will be working on extended rest after taking the loss in the Rangers' 6-0 setback on July 31 at Arizona. He has gone 21-12 with a 3.77 ERA in 39 career starts versus Seattle.