SEATTLE MARINERS

Three things: Red-hot Robinson Cano pacing the Mariners

May 9, 2016, 8:59 AM | Updated: May 10, 2016, 10:26 am

The Mariners’ run of series victories has finally ended, but there is good news wrapped inside that bad news: they still haven’t lost a series in their last seven, as they went a square 2-2 with the Astros in Houston. Entering a three-game set with Tampa Bay on Monday, Seattle owns an 18-13 record and a half-game lead over Texas for first place in the American League West Division.

Related: Jerry Dipoto calls Ketel Marte ‘most surprising’ player he inherited

Here’s three things to keep in mind this week:

1. Robinson Cano is currently a human fire emoji.

For the first time since joining the Mariners before the 2014 season, Robinson Cano is proving to be the MVP front-runner befitting his $240 million contract, leading the MLB with 33 RBIs. He hit three home runs in the final two games of the series in Houston, pushing his AL-best homer total to 12. Just 31 games into the season, he’s already two homers away from matching how many he hit in 2014 (his one All-Star campaign as a Mariner) and well on pace to top his career-high of 33 set in 2012. Alright, so maybe he’s on pace to hit 62 home runs, a fairly unreasonable number to expect from a 33-year-old second baseman, but at least for now it’s fun for Mariners fans to watch. And before we leave the topic of Cano, the especially good omen is that his average is starting to climb, sitting at .305 entering Monday after hovering under .250 for the first month of the season.

2. Cracks in the bullpen are worth some concern.

The surprising success of the bullpen that had been the story of April may be running out. The numbers from Seattle’s relievers are still nice to look at, leading the MLB with a .181 batting average against and maintaining a 2.50 ERA that is third-best in the majors. But injuries are starting to mount, the latest being a shoulder issue that last week landed flamethrower Tony Zych on the disabled list, where he joined Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Cook, Charlie Furbush and Evan Scribner. Luckily for the M’s, Benoit and Cook are expected back soon, and they’re going to be needed. Seattle can only rely on the inexperienced Mike Montgomery and aging Joel Peralta in high-leverage situations for so long.

3. Role players giving the offense a boost.

A big part of GM Jerry Dipoto’s plan for the Mariners was to make sure the lineup around the trio of Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager was solidified, and it appears he did a decent job of doing so. Seth Smith, Ketel Marte and Dae-Ho Lee have all shown a knack for headline-grabbing hits, while Norichika Aoki and Chris Iannetta have been getting on base even though their batting averages have room for improvement. Even usual No. 9 hitter Leonys Martin has added something to the mix, smacking five home runs that make his .204 average much more palatable. Those players’ collective contributions have been every bit as important to Seattle’s run of good offense as those of Cano, Cruz and Seager.

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Three things: Red-hot Robinson Cano pacing the Mariners