Teoscar Hernandez and Ty France have big games as the Mariners give up a seven-run lead, but recover to beat Royals in extra innings.
For the second consecutive game, the Mariners took part in an emotional, roller-coaster affair versus the Royals. However, unlike the previous night, on this occasion they came through on the winning side.
This year’s version of the Mariners is arguably the most frustrating and unpredictable in franchise history. It really has been that stressful to watch this team, whether you’re a fan or even a member of the media.
In this respect, the first two games of this series in Kansas City might have perfectly encapsulated the 2023 edition of your Seattle Mariners. Having said that, at least they managed to end the three-game losing streak with the 10-8 win on Tuesday night.
Everything was pretty low-key through three innings. The game was tied 0-0, with no indication of the pending mayhem.
Seven-run blitz in the fourth
Eugenio Suarez then got things going in the top of the fourth, with a solo blast which also doubled as his team-leading 75th RBI of the season. Ty France then repeated the same trick, to give the Mariners a 2-0 advantage.
Next up it was Teoscar Hernandez, who couldn’t have known he was about to embark on an extremely special performance. He proceeded to hit a two-run homer, to double the Mariners’ lead to 4-0.
Jose Caballero followed with a RBI double to make it 5-0, but still the Mariners weren’t finished. The recently acquired Josh Rojas hit his first home run of the season, and it was 7-0 to the visitors halfway through the fourth inning.
The scoring barrage represented the third time in franchise history the Mariners had hit four home runs in one inning. They seemed out of sight and well on their way to the win, but the Royals had other ideas.
Tough second start for Hancock
Emerson Hancock‘s second Major League start seemed to be going smoothly enough. Through four innings he allowed four hits — all singles — but most importantly, no runs.
However, it all then fell apart for Hancock during the bottom of the fifth. He loaded the bases, before allowing the Royals to score their first run of the day to make it 7-1.
With two outs, there was a hope the Mariners’ rookie pitcher would limit the damage. Unfortunately for the visitors, Bobby Witt Jr. subsequently hit a grand slam home run and the Royals were right back in it at 7-5.
This proved to be the Hancock’s final inning of the night. His final stat line included nine hits, no walks and of course five runs.
One area that was particularly concerning for the 24-year-old was his lack of strikeouts. He forced just six swing-and-misses, on his way to only one strikeout.
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Vulnerable Mariners bullpen collapses yet again
With Hancock out, it would be up to a suddenly susceptible bullpen to pick up the slack. It went well enough for three innings, as Gabe Speier, Justin Topa and Andres Munoz combined to keep the Royals off the board.
During this same period, Hernandez hit a RBI double in the top of the seventh, to increase the Mariners’ lead to 8-5. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, it wouldn’t hold up.
Munoz came back out for the bottom of the ninth, for what would become his longest outing of the season at 1.2 innings. He managed to get the first two necessary outs, before loading the bases.
This led to a Michael Massey single which scored two runners and pulled the Royals to withing one run, at 8-7. Surely the bullpen wasn’t going to have a late-game collapse for a fourth consecutive game?
Sadly for Mariners fans they were, as a single allowed the Royals to tie the game at 8-8. The only positive was that on the same play Dairon Blanco was thrown out at third base, to end the threat and take us to extra innings.
Munoz finished his outing throwing a career high 42 pitches. He allowed two hits and a couple of walks , with all three runs recorded as unearned.
For his part, Servais still has faith in his relievers, but appreciates they need to step up more. He said postgame:
“We need to get better. You go through these lulls so to speak. You learn from it and move forward. The stuff’s still really good. We just need to execute better in (those) spots.”
France to the rescue for the Mariners
France has had his own struggles this season, but has returned to the form you expect during August. And this recent good form continued into the top of the 10th, as he hit a two-RBI single to reclaim the lead for the Mariners at 10-8.
The clutch score saw the 2022 All-Star finish the day with a season-high four hits. Speaking about his fourth hit in extra innings, he said:
“I was looking for a slider. I had done my homework on how (Tucker Davidson) attacked guys in that inning. I figured I’d get one and I didn’t want to miss it.”
The job still wasn’t completed however, with Tayler Saucedo needing to bring the Mariners through the bottom of the 10th. He subsequently removed any more unnecessary drama, with three straight outs and his first Major League career save.
Speaking volumes about the camaraderie within the clubhouse, France discussed helping the bullpen through their recent struggles. He said:
“They’ve bailed us out all year, so tonight was big. I think more times than not, they’re going to pick us up, so we really needed to do that for them.
Royals better than expected
The Royals might have one of the worst records in the Majors, but they’ve being playing better in recent weeks. (They were 10-6 in their previous 16 games heading into Tuesday night.) As Servais said:
“We felt like we were in control of the ballgame, but we opened the door for them. They got some big hits. We couldn’t put them away.”
It also didn’t help that the Mariners have had issues in general in the past in Kansas City. Servais commented on this, while adding possibly the quote of the year as he said:
“Kauffman Stadium has (had) its challenges for us, for sure. I joked around with our team afterwards. We can screw some (stuff) up, but we don’t give up.”
A career game for Teo
As briefly referenced earlier, Hernandez had a tremendous performance on Tuesday night. He matched his Major League career-high of five hits, as he went 5-for-5 at the plate.
The two-time slugger has frustrated fans at times this year, highlighted by being third in the Majors for most strikeouts. (Suarez is second.) Speaking about this specific issue, he said:
“I’ve been thinking about it, because I’ve been swinging and missing a lot. Early in the season, I had a lot of strikeouts, and I think for me it’s time to cut that down and just try to put the ball more in play.”
Hernandez certainly did this on Tuesday night, as he came up a triple short of the cycle. Discussing his refocused effort, he said:
“The last couple of weeks I’ve been hitting the ball really hard, getting more contact. That’s something that I’ve been trying to do lately.”
With the win the Mariners improved to 64-55, remaining 2.0 games (and one loss) behind the Blue Jays for the final AL Wild card spot. They also stayed just ahead by one game over the only other current genuine threat, the Red Sox.
Now, it’s up to the Mariners to take control of a series they shouldn’t — and can’t afford to — lose. They’ll send their staff ace Luis Castillo to the mound on Wednesday night, hoping to still win but see less excitement compared to the first two games versus the Royals.
Do the recent issues with the Mariners bullpen concern you? Or do you believe this is just a temporary blip? Let us know in the comments section below.