SEATTLE MARINERS

Three things: Can the Mariners finish April over .500?

Apr 25, 2016, 1:01 PM | Updated: Apr 30, 2016, 9:15 am
Seth Smith will bat DH after missing Sunday's game with a bruised foot. (AP)...
Seth Smith will bat DH after missing Sunday's game with a bruised foot. (AP)
(AP)

The Mariners are back in Seattle after a strong road trip in which they won all three series and got back to a .500 record. Here’s three things to keep an eye on during their second homestand of the season:

Related: Nelson Cruz, Adam Lind heating up for Mariners

It hasn’t been a great start, but it’s not bad, either.

With Seattle sitting at .500 entering the final week of April, it’s really easy for fans to find ways to look at the Mariners with either the glass half-full or half-empty. Perhaps give it until the end of the week to make a judgment, however, after considering this: The M’s haven’t finished April with a winning record since 2009, and they have just one winning April record in the last 12 years. Of course, it’s been 13 years since Seattle has won 90 games and 15 years since its been to the playoffs, so the lack of April success sure seems to be a factor in the franchise’s long postseason drought. With the extra wild-card berth out there now, though, a 90-win record is much more likely to earn a playoff spot, and it’s a lot easier to do that after putting together a winning record in the first month. If the Mariners end their homestand this week above water, it would mean they’ve put together their best start in years, in which case fire up the optimism. That being said…

Time to see if the Mariners can win at home.

The M’s will return to Seattle the winner of three straight series, on the road no less. It could be very difficult to maintain that momentum when you take into account that they have to play the Astros and defending champion Royals in back-to-back series, though. Even more worrisome is that the Mariners are still trying to find a way to shake off the issues in Safeco Field that resulted in a 1-5 showing in their first homestand of the season. Seattle has long had problems winning at Safeco – since 2009, it has ended a season with a winning record at home just twice, and one of those times (2014) they were only a game over .500 – and general manager Jerry Dipoto knew that heading into the offseason. His roster reconstruction was tailored to Safeco but didn’t have much success two weeks ago. This week is another chance for the Mariners to prove they’re heading in the right direction.

What happened to Robinson Cano’s scorching start?

Cano’s six home runs are still tied for third on the American League leaderboard, but four of those came in the first three days of the season, and his average dipped down to .219 after going 1 for 12 in the three-game set in Anaheim. Following offseason double sports hernia surgery, the second baseman looked like a new man in spring training and early on in the regular season. Entering Monday’s opener with Houston, he’s struck out 11 times in 81 plate appearances, which isn’t terrible but is much closer to the ratio he had last year when he whiffed a career-high 107 times than when he struck out just 68 times in 2014. The promising thing is that his batting average on balls in play is an astounding low .179, and his career BABIP is .321 so that’s going to regulate itself. Considering all the numbers, it appears Cano is both unlucky and struggling with timing. The Mariners need one of both of those things to get figured out for their No. 3 hitter soon.

No starting pitcher.

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Three things: Can the Mariners finish April over .500?