It started with base hits, bunts — intentional and unintentional from the Mariners — and blunders from the Baltimore Orioles. It escalated into better approaches with runners in scoring position, including productive outs in the form of sacrifice “flies” that were really line outs.
The explosion of run-scoring on a pleasant Wednesday afternoon at T-Mobile Park was highlighted by a big-boy blast into the upper deck followed by a bat flip, both of which will be frequent occurrences from Julio Rodriguez in his many years to come .
Fittingly, the boon of run support came with right-hander Chris Flexen making his 15th start of the season. In his previous 14 starts, he rarely benefited from the rare occasions when the Mariners offense was clicking.
Not one to waste atypical run support, Flexen continued the rotation’s run of solid starts, tossing six innings and allowing just three runs.
Add it all up and you get a comfortable 9-3 victory and a series win over the Orioles. It was the Mariners’ fifth series win at home this season and their first since taking two of three from the Astros on May 27-29.
“I think anybody who watches us on a daily basis understands the situational hitting and getting guys in from third and getting that big hit with runners in scoring position has been a struggle for us,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “But we did a lot of really good things today. We got a colorful down; we stole bases; we got sack flies. We just did things to keep the line moving.”
Since their last homestand, where they lost three series and finished with a 3-8 record, the Mariners have posted a 7-2 record to improve to 36-41, also winning three-game series at Oakland and Anaheim on the previous road trip .
The Mariners will host the reeling A’s for a four-game series starting Thursday. With a 5-3 loss at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Oakland was swept by the Yankees to fall to 25-52 on the season. Since June 1, the A’s are 5-20.
“The way that we stick together as a team has been really improving,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like that’s what you saw. Everybody just kind of passing the baton to the next guy. It’s pretty amazing to see what we were able to do, and I feel like you’re gonna keep seeing that from the team.”
The Mariners picked up three runs in the second inning against Orioles starter Austin Voth, who was a standout for Kentwood and University of Washington.
With one out, Abraham Toro doubled to right-center and Adam Frazier reached when Jonathan Arauz mishandled an easy ground ball for an error. It brought to the plate no. 9 hitter Sam Haggerty, who was recalled from Class AAA Tacoma before the game. The switch-hitting Haggerty saw Arauz playing at double-play depth and decided to drop a bunt down the third-base line for a potential single. A hurried Arauz fielded the bunt cleanly, but his throw on the run was off target, getting past first baseman Trey Mancini. Toro raced home for the Mariners’ first run.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity to kind of get things moving,” said Haggerty, who had three hits. “We had the top of the order coming up behind me, so it just seemed like a good time to roll the dice.”
JP Crawford followed with a bunt single of his own that scored a run, only his was swinging. The mis-hit dribbler bounced down the grass along the first-base path. Orioles catcher Adleyrutschman expected the ball to roll foul when it hit the dirt. But the ball was hit so slowly that it died before the painted foul line.
In a sign of things to come, Rodriguez scalded a 109-mph line drive to deep center field that was caught by Cedric Mullins for a sacrifice “fly,” allowing Haggerty to jog home.
After Baltimore scored a run in the top of the fourth off Flexen, the Mariners broke it open in the bottom of the inning against lefty Nick Vespi.
Toro doubled to lead off the inning, Frazier looped a single into left and Haggerty’s hard ground ball hit the third-base bag and bounced into the air into shallow left field for an RBI double. Crawford followed with a sac fly to left that made it 5-0.
“It’s exciting to see three sac flies today,” Servais said. “It’s something we’ve struggled with lately getting those guys in from third, so that was highlight of the day for me.”
It probably wasn’t the highlight of the day for most people. That came moments later when Rodriguez stepped to the plate and added to his highlight reel and résumé for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
He sat on a 2-1 slider that was below the strike zone from Vespi, sending a missile into the upper deck of T-Mobile Park for his 12th homer of the season. The blast had a 109-mph exit velocity and traveled 431 feet per MLB Statcast. His bat flip following the homer had similar Statcast measures and didn’t allow him to see where the ball landed.
“I never really look too much,” he said.
After winning the AL rookie of the month in May, Rodriguez is poised to win it again in June. He posted a .288/.364/.529 slash line in June with six homers and 15 RBI in 28 games.
“We’ve got a lot of fun ahead of us here for the whole organization, the Seattle fanbase,” Servais said. “This guy is some kind of special and we’re watching it play out before our eyes. You never know, he might just show up in LA for an All-Star game. We’ll see.”
The Mariners continued to pour it on, adding two more runs in the inning while batting around the order.
Flexen gave up two more runs in the fifth inning, but gave the Mariners their 25th quality start in the last 26 games with six innings and three runs allowed.
Erik Swanson, Ken Giles and Penn Murfee each worked scoreless innings of relief.