Julio Rodriguez leads the way, as the Mariners continue their winning ways in Cleveland with a 5-3 win versus the Guardians.
An eerily similar scenario was playing out for the Mariners on Friday night, down 3-0 after four innings. They were struggling for hits and receiving another subpar performance from the rotation.
It was this script which had been too prevalent of late, leading to a 2-5 record to begin the 2023 season. It didn’t help that the Mariners were playing a Guardians team which had started the season taking three out of four games in Seattle.
However, if there’s one player guaranteed not to go down without a fight, it’s Julio Rodriguez. And the Mariners’ (future) superstar once more stepped up when needed most.
Rodriguez delivers yet again
The Mariners had gamely fought their way back into the contest at Progressive Field. As such, it was tied 3-3 when Rodriguez came up for his decisive at-bat in the top of the sixth.
And the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year didn’t disappoint, again delivering with the spotlight on him. The result was a two-run homer, which gave the M’s a 5-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The home run blast also had historical significance for Rodriguez. It was the 30th homer of his career and achieved in 140 games, making him the quickest to reach that mark in Mariners history.
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For some context, the second-placed Jim Presley took 156 games. Alex Rodriguez is third, having achieved the feat in 162 games.
It should also be noted that Rodriguez stole the 28th base of his Major League career on Friday. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Darryl Strawberry are the only other players in history with 30+ homers and at least 20 stolen bases in 140 games to start a career.
Rodriguez was unsurprisingly delighted with the outcome on Friday night. Speaking to the media after the game, he said:
“I was really happy with just delivering for the team, and especially when we’ve been missing that. We’ve been missing that a little bit, and being able to be there and be able to deliver is huge.”
M’s manager Scott Servais marveled about what the 2022 All-Star is able to do at the plate. He said:
“He covers the breaking ball, the heater, it really doesn’t matter. He’s just got that kind of talent when he barrels it up. The ball jumps off the bat.”
As much as Rodriguez quite rightly gets a lot of headlines, there are others who deserve credit for contributing to the come-back win. J.P. Crawford similarly had two hits and a couple of RBI, to go along with two runs.
Ty France and Eugenio Suarez also continued their strong respective offensive starts to the season, with a hit each. The former also contributed with the Mariners’ other RBI on the night.
Gilbert not his usual self
There was some cause for concern, with Logan Gilbert struggling on the night. He only lasted 4.0 innings, due to giving up six hits, two walks and three earned runs.
The Mariners rotation has struggled in general to begin the 2023 season. However, this outing by Gilbert was unexpected, especially considering how well he performed in his previous start.
One contributing factor towards Gilberts’ poor outing, was a downturn in his fastball velocity as the game progressed. Speaking to the media afterwards, he said:
“It could be the rhythm and sync — stuff like that — because out of the gate it felt good and had a little bit more on it. I’ll probably look at some video, because I don’t know if it’s because of the cold, or just where I’m at with my release point.”
Fans will be understandably be worried, especially after Robbie Ray’s injury which will have him out for around a month. However, Gilbert said he felt fine in general.
Mariners bullpen returns to last year’s form
Following Gilbert’s struggles, the bullpen took over and brought back memories of last season’s strong unit. They combined to allow just one hit, a walk and no runs in five innings, to secure the 5-3 victory.
Servais made sure to give Matt Brash, Paul Sewald and company the appropriate credit. He said:
“What a job by our bullpen today. Heck of a job. We know they had that kind of ability and it was nice to see it all line up today, because we needed it with Logan being off just a little bit … the guys did a great job today. You can’t say enough.”
With the win, the Mariners are now 10-5 in their first road game of the season, going back to 2009. It is also worth noting they swept the Guardians in their only trip to Cleveland last season.
In fairness though, the M’s would accept just winning the series after the way they began this season at home. For what it’s worth, only seven ball clubs had a better road record in the Majors last year.
In the attempts to win their first series of the 2023 campaign, Seattle will send Marco Gonzales to the mound on Saturday night. George Kirby will then start on Sunday afternoon.
What was most encouraging for you on Friday night in Cleveland? And on the flip side, was there anything which gave you cause to have concern for the Mariners? Let us know in the comments section below.
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