Julio Rodriguez named AL Player of the Week, J.P. Crawford is reinstated from the Injured List and the Mariners beat the White Sox 14-2.
In terms of headlines, Monday August 21 is in contention for the busiest date of the 2023 regular season for the Mariners. There’s a lot to unpack, as this team is on a roll and making the year become increasingly special with every passing day.
First up, Julio Rodriguez was named AL Player of the Week for August 14-20. As much as it was expected, it doesn’t make the achievement any less enjoyable for everyone concerned.
A record-breaking hitting streak
Rodriguez put together one of the hottest hitting streaks you’re ever likely to witness. During the week in question, he went 21-for-37 over the course of seven games.
The hitting barrage included four doubles, two home runs and 12 total RBI. Once on base, the 22-year-old also had six steals and seven runs of his own.
There were also historical connotations to Rodriguez’s accolades. He became just the second player in MLB history to have four or more hits in four consecutive games, with his 17 combined hits over the four games also setting a new Major League record.
The achievement understandably impressed a lot of people, including Mariners manager Scott Servais. Almost — almost — at a loss for words, he said:
“Wow, 17 hits in four games. I’ve never seen anything like that and nobody in the history of Major League Baseball has seen anything like it, but what can you say?”
From a Mariners perspective, Rodriguez is the only player in team history to hit 20+ home runs in each of his first two Major League seasons. This is his third career Player of the Week award and second one this season.
J.P. is back in the house
The return of Crawford is a welcome one, because it means he’s come through concussion protocol and is healthy. He was involved in a nasty collision with teammate Eugenio Suarez on August 9.
The 2020 Gold Glove Award winner tried to keep playing at the time, but knew something wasn’t right. Speaking about the incident on Monday, he said:
“I had an at-bat and the guy threw a fastball and I really didn’t see it that well, so I just knew after that something wasn’t right. … My jaw was hurting for a while. It only stopped hurting two or three days ago, but I’m happy to be back now.”
The 28-year-old’s return is also welcomed, because of what he means to the Mariners lineup. He leads team regulars in walks and OBP, while also being on course to set new career-bests in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
Crawford went 0-for-3 during his rehab game with High-A Everett, before rejoining the Mariners. He returned to the lineup on Monday night in Chicago and while he had no hits, he did manufacture two walks which both ended with him scoring a run.
Hancock’s short-lived stay in the Majors
As mentioned, going in the other direction was Hancock. He has been placed on the 15-day IL with a right shoulder strain.
The 24-year-old only recently made his Major League debut and was in his third start when disaster struck versus the Astros. He was forced to leave the game with his shoulder strain after completing two scoreless innings in Houston.
The Mariners will be hoping Hancock can return soon. Although it helps that Bryan Woo is expected to be activated on Tuesday.
Executive Vice President and General Manager of Baseball Operations Justin Hollander also announced another couple of moves on Monday. Pitcher Darren McCaughan was recalled from Triple-A, with Sam Haggerty replacing him in Tacoma.
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Mariners make it seven straight
As if all these headlines weren’t already enough headlines, the Mariners created some more on the field. Most importantly, they beat the White Sox 14-2 on Monday night.
As a result, the Mariners have now won seven straight games, one off their season high. They have been the hottest teams in baseball since July 1, with 32-13 wins. (Percentage-wise, their 32-13 record is just behind the Dodgers at 30-12.)
From a standings perspective, the Mariners are in the third AL wild card spot, one game ahead of the Blue Jays and just half a game behind the Astros for the second position. Intriguingly, they are now also just two games behind the Rangers for the lead in the AL West.
One of the most impressing aspects of the win in Chicago, was that they achieved it without the aforementioned Rodriguez. He was given a rare and much-needed scheduled day off.
Despite being without the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year, the Mariners came flying out the gates with five runs in the opening inning. When it was all said and done, they had totaled 15 hits and five walks to reach their 14 runs.
Teoscar Hernandez had an excellent performance, with two hits and three RBI. However, the offensive star of the night was Cal Raleigh.
In a tremendous effort, Raleigh hit a career-high six RBI. This included two home runs, with him now having 10 bombs in his past 20 games.
Despite his individual accomplishments, “Big Dumper” likes how the team is playing as a whole. Speaking postgame, he said:
“We’re having good timely hitting. We’re taking our walks. When pitchers make mistakes, we’re taking advantage of it. That’s just kind of what happens when you’re playing good clean ball.”
Castillo does his thing
On the mound, the Mariners desperately needed an extended start from Luis Castillo, one day after using seven relievers out of the bullpen in Houston. And that’s exactly what they got.
Castillo managed to pitch seven precious innings, allowing just five hits, no walks and one run. At one point he retired 15 batters in a row, during a performance where he also had nine strikeouts.
In some respects, it’s hard to believe this is the same ballclub which spent so much of the season hovering around the .500 mark. At the same time they are repeating their trick of the two previous years, of putting a run together late on.
Raleigh is certainly aware of this trend. He said:
“We were at a point where it was time to get going. We’d rather not wait until the last second — we kind of have a knack for doing that — but we’re playing a lot better now. We’ve just got to kind of keep our head down and we’ve got to keep going, because we know there’s a lot of baseball to be played.”
Along these lines, the Mariners have to take advantage of their schedule for the remainder of August, because it gets a lot harder next month. This will include a killer final 10-game stretch, with seven versus the Rangers and three against the Astros.
How confident are you in the Mariners now not just qualifying for the playoffs, but conceivably winning the AL West? Let us know in the comments section below.