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Cano's resurgence has Seattle in thick of race

MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

Life is good in Seattle. The Mariners have won eight in a row. They have climbed to within 1 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card spot.

The Mariners have scored more runs than any team in baseball during that stretch, with Nelson Cruz and Norichika Aoki getting the attention on offense while rookie starter Ariel Miranda (2-0, zero earned runs in 12 innings) and closer Edwin Diaz (4-for-4 in saves, with four perfect innings) have received the publicity on the hill.

Life is good in Seattle. The Mariners have won eight in a row. They have climbed to within 1 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card spot.

The Mariners have scored more runs than any team in baseball during that stretch, with Nelson Cruz and Norichika Aoki getting the attention on offense while rookie starter Ariel Miranda (2-0, zero earned runs in 12 innings) and closer Edwin Diaz (4-for-4 in saves, with four perfect innings) have received the publicity on the hill.

Nobody, however, is enjoying it more than Robinson Cano.

Cano is no longer having to deal with verbal blasts like the one former Mariners outfield coach Andy Van Slyke delivered in an offseason radio interview. The media rumblings that Cano wasn't happy in Seattle and wanted to be a Yankee again have been silenced. And he is definitely a favorite among the Mariners fans.

Cano never made an issue out of his struggles a year ago. He ignored falling back on the pressures that came with his 10-year, $240 million contract, although he now will admit, "When you go to a new team, you want to show them they made a good decision."

And Cano chose not to talk about physical problems.

"You don't want to look for excuses when you are going bad," Cano explained.

Cano did, however, undergo surgery last October to repair his left and right core muscles, an injury diagnosed on June 18 that he decided to play through because he was told he would not aggravate the problem by playing -- even if he wasn't able to play at his expected level of excellence.

"I don't want to sit in the dugout and watch," Cano said. "I want to play."

And 11 months post-surgery, Cano is enjoying what ranks among the best seasons of a career that has seen him finish in the top 10 of AL MVP Award voting five times -- including in 2014, his first year in Seattle -- and earn seven All-Star selections.

"It's a great year, no doubt, really from the get-go," Mariners manager Scott Servais said during a media session earlier in the week.

Great, as in hitting .298 with 33 home runs, 30 doubles, 87 RBIs, 307 total bases and an .870 OPS. Oh, and Cano is leading AL second basemen with a .997 fielding percentage. More importantly, he has appeared in 145 of Seattle's 146 games.

That is why the next week at Safeco will be exciting, featuring back-to-back three-game series vs. playoff hopefuls, as the Mariners will be hosting the Astros this weekend and the Blue Jays beginning Monday.

Now, Cano has by no means been a one-man show. But he was the player whom the public seemed to single out to be the scapegoat for the shortcomings of a year ago that led to a shakeup in the front office and the dugout -- including the dismissal of Van Slyke and the rest of former manager Lloyd McClendon's coaching staff.

It ate at Cano, particularly insinuations that he became a Mariner for purely financial reasons. He pointed out during the spring that "you could have said I was offered more by the Yankees. New York offered $25 million a year for seven years. Seattle offered $24 million a year for 10 years."

And Cano has made it clear during this season that although he's 33, he is still in the midst of a stellar career.

Nobody appreciate it more than Servais.

"He put in a ton of work in the offseason, and it's paying off," said Servais. "And it's not just the bat, either. It's defensively and the ability to run out there every day and play. It's so valuable just to write that name in the lineup every day and know what you're going to get. I know he wanted to have a bounce-back year, and he certainly has."

It is no coincidence that the Mariners are having a bounce-back year, too: Very much in the middle of the AL Wild Card race with a 78-68 record -- two more wins than their 2015 total -- and very much on pace for only the franchise's second winning season in seven years.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Seattle Mariners