SEATTLE -- Mitch Haniger isn't trying to be Nelson Cruz, but the 27-year-old right fielder has capably filled the clean-up role in Cruz's absence, and his three-run homer in the seventh inning helped carry Seattle to its third straight win, a 7-4 victory over the A's on Friday night at
SEATTLE -- Mitch Haniger isn't trying to be Nelson Cruz, but the 27-year-old right fielder has capably filled the clean-up role in Cruz's absence, and his three-run homer in the seventh inning helped carry Seattle to its third straight win, a 7-4 victory over the A's on Friday night at Safeco Field.
"That's Nelson's spot and I think everybody knows that," Haniger said after tying his career-best with four RBIs in a 2-for-4 night.
True enough. And with Cruz expected to rejoin the lineup Saturday after missing nine games with a sprained right ankle, Haniger will now move back down in the order.
But even with Cruz and several other potent bats -- catcher Mike Zunino, first baseman Ryon Healy and right fielder Ben Gamel -- currently on the disabled list, the Mariners have gotten off to a 7-4 start and won three straight.
"We've got a really good vibe in the clubhouse," said Haniger, who leads the club with three homers and 12 RBIs. "Everybody knows to just step in and be yourself and just play hard. We've been doing a really good job with that and we're off to a good start. And I think it's only going to get better when we get the big guns back."
Haniger's soaring three-run homer off Chris Hatcher put the Mariners in the lead, and Daniel Vogelbach followed with a two-run shot -- the first of his career -- to provide some cushion on a day Seattle overcame a trio of A's long balls, including two by Khris Davis.
Kyle Seager went 3-for-4 with an RBI double and Robinson Cano singled and walked three times in four plate appearances as he now leads the Majors in batting average at .424 and on-base percentage at .578.
It's no coincidence that Cano drew three base on balls without Cruz hitting behind him, but Haniger made the A's pay anyway. Jean Segura's two-out single and Cano's seventh-inning walk set the table for Haniger's go-ahead homer.
"Robbie understands the situation," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "They're not going to give in to Robbie with Hanny behind him. And Hanny has been really good and really consistent for us, but he's not Nelson Cruz. But he's certainly proving to be worthy of hitting behind Robbie. A lot of big, clutch RBIs, deep in counts and continues to battle and is getting good results right now."
Seattle starter Mike Leake allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings, including a two-run homer by Davis in the first and Matt Chapman's solo shot in the sixth. He settled for a no-decision and remains 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA this year and 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA in eight starts since being acquired from the Cardinals last August.
Edwin Diaz closed out the ninth for his fifth straight save and has yet to allow a hit in six innings, while striking out 13 of the first 22 batters he's faced.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dream achieved: Vogelbach had been pressing a bit, trying to fill in for Cruz at designated hitter. But the rookie unleashed his first career blast with his two-run shot off Hatcher in the seventh to cap off the five-run inning. .
"It's everything you've dreamed of," Vogelbach said. "It was awesome. It was a weight off my shoulders and now I can just go play. I've said since the day I've been here that my No. 1 goal is to help this team win and I think I can do that."
Leake has now thrown eight straight games of five-plus innings with three or fewer runs allowed since being acquired by the Mariners last Aug. 30. That streak is tied for the second longest in the Majors with Charlie Morton of the Astros, though well behind the current 15-game run by Indians ace Corey Kluber.
HE SAID IT
"The top of our order has been really, really good. They've been driving the train and we're going to need them to continue to do that. We're going to start getting some guys back here that are used to hitting in the middle of the lineup, but right now you can't say enough about Haniger, Robbie is taking his walks, what Jean has done, Dee [Gordon] at the top and Seags is starting to heat up big time." -- Servais, on the lineup making up for players out with injuries
The Mariners are hoping to have Cruz back for Saturday's 6:10 p.m. PT game with the A's at Safeco Field as he returns from a sprained ankle. Marco Gonzales (1-1, 7.27 ERA) gets the start against Oakland right-hander Kendall Graveman (0-2, 9.45). Gonzales has never started against Oakland, but threw four scoreless innings of relief in a game against the A's last September.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB