Middle of the order finds groove vs. Astros

Cano, Trumbo, Seager contribute needed boost for offense

Middle of the order finds groove vs. Astros

SEATTLE -- With the lowest-scoring offense in the American League, it's no secret why the Mariners have been struggling over the first three months of the season. But a lineup loaded with four All-Stars in the middle of the order showed a glimpse Friday night of what's needed to turn things around in a 5-2 win over the Astros at Safeco Field.

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Seattle's offense ranks last in the American League in runs per game and batting average. And after a hot start by Nelson Cruz, the slugger has now gone 20 games and 81 plate appearances without a home run.

But Cruz reached base in all four at-bats Friday, Robinson Cano emerged from his lengthy struggle with a 3-for-4 day and two runs, Kyle Seager had a key RBI single and Mark Trumbo drove in three runs to provide some needed oomph for an offense that hadn't scored more than three runs in its previous 13 games at Safeco Field.

"That's the thing we've been looking for," Cano said of the middle-of-the-order production. "We need to be more consistent as a team. And this is the team we really want to go out and beat. They're the team in first place and we need to get closer in the race."

Cano has struggled most of the season and, even after his three-hit day, is batting .245 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 65 games. Seager has been solid (.271, 11 homers and 37 RBIs), but Trumbo had hit .182 with no extra-base hits and one RBI in his first 12 games before driving in a trio of runs in three different at-bats with a single and two run-scoring grounders.

Seager's RBI single

"It felt really good, especially contributing in a win," said Trumbo. "Maybe not all those were the prettiest ways to get it done, but they're every bit as effective at times. I think especially in that first case, all the credit goes to Nelson in getting a great jump off first and forcing them to take the one out and get the RBI. That's the kind of teamwork you look for."

Trumbo's RBI groundout

With a team batting just .233 and averaging 3.4 runs per game, manager Lloyd McClendon points to that heart of the lineup as the place to turn things around.

"Everybody struggles from time to time," McClendon said. "But the fact is, if we're going to have a successful season and be the type of club we think we can be, then our stars have got to hit and they've got to be consistent. It's just that simple.

"Our 3-4-5-6 guys have got to produce. They get paid to produce and they've got to produce. It's not rocket science. You can bring in the analytical department and all that stuff. They've got to hit. The meat of your order has got to hit and they've got to carry your club. That's why they get paid the big bucks, to hit and drive in runs. It's just that simple."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.