SEATTLE -- Wade LeBlanc hasn't won a lot of games for the Mariners. In fact, his victory on Thursday over the Rangers was his first as a Major League starter in nearly two years.
But as the crafty 33-year-old southpaw helped Seattle stay on the heels of Houston in the American League West by snapping a two-game losing streak with a 6-1 win over Texas, he reminded manager Scott Servais of a former Mariner who won a whole lot of games.
"There was a guy named Jamie Moyer who pitched a long time," Servais said. "People didn't think that was sustainable either, because he didn't blow you away with his fastball. It's a feel to pitch, the back and forth, reading the bat.
"There'll be nights that will be really good and nights when it'll be a little rough. [LeBlanc] doesn't have the [James] Paxton-type stuff, obviously, but his know-how and feel to pitch -- he's got moxie, is what he's got."
LeBlanc continued providing a big boost for the Mariners' rotation as he allowed one run on four hits over five innings before giving way after 84 pitches while battling a recent flu bug that sapped his strength. The veteran has been outstanding since moving into a starting role, posting a 1.72 ERA in six May outings.
But Servais has been limiting LeBlanc's innings, and this was his first decision in those six outings. Though the Mariners have only lost one game he's started, LeBlanc's last MLB win as a starter came on Aug. 19, 2016, in his previous stint with Seattle.
"It's cool to see a number in that column, but at the end of the day I think we're 5-1 in my games, and that's the more important stat," LeBlanc said.
After allowing nine runs over eight innings the previous two nights, Seattle's bullpen put the clamps on this one with four scoreless frames, including two by Chasen Bradford to close out the game.
Nelson Cruz provided the fire power in a 2-for-3 night with three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the third off Texas lefty Mike Minor.
"It's nice to see Nelson Cruz back," Servais said. "We can finally say he's in a nice little groove, driving the ball and getting the ball in the air, getting good pitches to hit. He can carry your offense for an extended period of time."
Shortstop Jean Segura went 2-for-2 with a walk, double and three runs scored while lifting his average to .339, second in the AL.
The Mariners -- 34-22 and one game out of first place -- are 12-5 since losing Robinson Cano to a broken hand and subsequent suspension, and they've now got the rest of their offensive pieces back. Dee Gordon came off the 10-day disabled list on Thursday and provided a first-inning triple and raced home to score on a shallow sacrifice fly by Segura.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cruz has been awakening from his slow start like a slumbering giant. Thursday's homer was his third in the past seven games, and he's hitting .370 (10-for-27) in that span, lifting his season totals to .247 with 10 home runs. His third-inning shot came on a first-pitch fastball from Minor and got out in a hurry with a 109.7 mph exit velocity. The big designated hitter continues to feast on his former Rangers team. He's 15-for-31 (.484) against Texas, while batting 25-for-131 (.191) against all other teams.
"I feel healthy. That's the difference," Cruz said of his resurgence.
The Mariners finished the month 18-11, their third-best May in club history behind only a 20-7 mark in 2001 and a 19-8 in '03. Their 34 overall wins by the end of May trail only the 40 in '01 and 36 in '03.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Gordon likes to bring energy for the Mariners, and in his first game off the 10-day DL, the speedy second baseman couldn't wait to make a play. To the point where on the game's first at-bat, a popup right to first baseman Ryon Healy by Delino DeShields, Gordon raced over and called off Healy to make the catch. Which led to a humorous response from Healy, who began shouting at Gordon and yelling to the Mariners bench, "This is MY position!"
• Healy playfully scolds ball-hogging Gordon
HE SAID IT
"Maybe me and him are the only ones who can do that." -- Cruz, with tongue firmly in cheek, on Gordon tagging up and scoring in the first on a shallow sacrifice fly to right
Right-hander Mike Leake (5-3, 4.93 ERA) looks to carry on his recent hot streak as he takes on the Rays in a 7:10 p.m. PT series opener Friday at Safeco Field. Leake is coming off his best start of the year, with eight innings of one-run ball on four hits in a 3-1 win over the Twins. He's allowed two earned runs on 10 hits with no walks over 14 2/3 innings his last two outings. Tampa Bay will continue its recent experiment of starting reliever Sergio Romo (1-1, 6.33) for the first inning before likely bringing on right-hander Austin Pruitt (1-2, 4.02).