Mariners dominate Royals in best offensive display of 2023

Thanks to a seven-run blitz in the third inning, the Mariners put the Royals away early and win 15-2 to stay tied at the top of the AL West.

With an average of 16 combined runs in the previous four games versus the Royals this season, 17 on Saturday was essentially par the course. Unlike those previous occasions however, this time the Mariners scored the majority of those runs on the way to an emphatic 15-2 win.

The 15 runs were a season-high and their most since 2016, on a day of all kinds of milestones. The Mariners equaled a club record with seven home runs, which had been done on four previous occasions.

The seven homers also set a Mariners record for most ever at T-Mobile Park. Along with three of the previous times being on the road, the other time was when they still played at the Kingdome.

J-Rod continues to excel

From an individual perspective, it was a special day for Julio Rodríguez. He became the fastest player in Mariners history to reach 50 home runs, achieved in 256 games. (The record was previously held by Alex Rodríguez, who reached the 50-homer mark in 269 games.)

When combined with his 60 steals, Rodríguez is the only player in American League history to reach 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases inside his first two seasons. The only other player to achieve this is the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. of the National League.

The 2022 Rookie of the Year is used to record accomplishments, as evidenced by recently setting a new mark of 17 hits in four games. On the subject of hits, he is now on 147 for the season, just five behind the AL-leading Bo Bichette. (Not that Bichette will be easy to catch, as the two-time reigning hits leader and being on top this year despite missing 17 games.)

As you’d expect though from the charismatic two-time All-Star, his main focus is on the team’s success. Speaking postgame he said:

“It’s unbelievable. It’s something that these fans deserve. This whole organization, we’ve all been working. Just to see that and how the city’s embracing us and our success right now, the way they are supporting us is pretty cool. I just hope that everybody keeps showing up and keeps on bringing the energy, because at the end of the day we are all in this together.”

No stopping Mariners offense

This is clear to see, when you have days like Saturday when 41.744 fans are in attendance. And they were all served up a treat with the 15 runs, to go along with excellent pitching and good defense.

They key inning turned out to be the third, when the Mariners exploded into life. The recently acquired Josh Rojas got things going, with a solo home run blast that made it 1-0.

As much as some people still lament the trade of Paul Sewald, Rojas has turned out to be a strong acquisition up to this point. In 17 games he has three homers, 10 RBI, three walks and three steals, as he bats .300 and has a .817 OPS.

Then, after the Mariners had loaded the bases, Teoscar Hernández promptly cleared them. The grand slam was the third of his Major League career, and it broke the game wide open.

The Mariners still weren’t done though, with Mike Ford hitting a two-run homer to make it 7-0 after three. Unsurprisingly this chased Jordan Lyles from the game, with the Royals starter allowing seven hits, three walks and seven earned runs in the three innings.

Not that things turned out to be any better for Lyles’ replacement, Jackson Kowar. First, he gave up a RBI to Hernández in the bottom of the fourth, to make it 8-0.

A new record at T-Mobile Park

Then, after the Royals had finally got on the board in the top of the fifth with a solo blast, it all fell apart for Kowar in the bottom of the inning. First Crawford had a RBI single and then Rodríguez hit his aforementioned 50th homer, a two-run bomb which made it 11-1.

After this, you almost felt sorry for the Royals — almost — as the Mariners scored four more runs. The Royals could only add one more run of their own, as Cal Raleigh and pinch hitter Cade Marlowe each hit a home run and Hernández added his second.

Mariners manager Scott Servais was pleasantly surprised when told about setting the home run record at T-Mobile Park. He said:

“It’s never happened in this park? We talk about how this game can get contagious when you’re going good offensively, and that’s what we’re seeing. Guys are not putting pressure on themselves.”

Gilbert pitches a gem

With all the offensive fireworks, Logan Gilbert was almost an afterthought. However, he put in an excellent display on Saturday afternoon.

On the day, Gilbert allowed just two hits, a walk and one earned run in 7.0 strong innings, striking out seven in the process. He’s now had quality starts in five of his previous six outings.

Servais marveled at how the 26-year-old performed on the day. He said:

“Logan was fantastic. The best slider he’s had maybe all year long. Kept the velocity on the fastball — kept pumping it in. And some really good split-fingers.”

Gilbert’s main challenge on the day was one all pitchers wish they could contend with. As he said:

“It’s a good problem to have when we’re scoring that many runs that I’m trying to stay active and moving around and stuff. The team right now, it’s crazy what we’re doing and what the offense is doing in particular. … It’s fun to be in this spot.”

Hot or not?

As of July 1, the Mariners are the hottest team in the Majors with a 35-14 record, but don’t tell Rodríguez this. He said:

“We’re not hot. I’m going to keep saying it: We’re not hot. We’re just playing the ball that I know we’re capable of.”

Regardless, the Mariners are in an excellent spot, tied with the Rangers for the division lead and the second seed in the AL. And while the Rangers have the head-to-head tie-beaker courtesy of their 5-1 record, the two sides still have to meet seven more times this season.

Along these lines, Servais is looking forward to the coming weeks. He said:

“What lies ahead of us here over the next 30-plus games is going to be really exciting. I hope our fans jump on board with us. … When you’re going good, everybody wants to jump on and it’s been a lot of fun. Our players are feeling it. You go home at night and you can’t wait to get to the ballpark the next day.”

Talking of the next day, the Mariners will go for the series sweep on Sunday afternoon. And with Luis Castillo on the mound to compliment a hot/playing to its full potential offense, the Mariners are in a strong position.

Earlier in the season the offense was under-performing. Now, do you believe they are playing to their true talent level, or actually overachieving? Let us know in the comments section below.

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