ARLINGTON, Texas — Kyle Seager didn’t know the specifics. The fact that he was hitless in his past 21 at-bats wasn’t on his mind when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning. Heck, he really didn’t even know he was in what people considered a slump.
“I realized I hadn’t had a hit in a while,” he said. “But it’s just one of those things you go through in a season.”
Maybe if he was dwelling on what he hadn’t done in the past few games, he wouldn’t have done what he did in that game-changing at-bat in Seattle’s 3-1 win over Texas on Friday night.
With the Mariners down by a run and looking at being shut out for the third time this season at Rangers Ballpark, Seager changed the game with one swing, blasting a two-run homer to right field off reliever Neal Cotts.
It gave the Mariners a lead they would not relinquish.
“I didn’t know until the postgame interview that I was 0-for-21, so that was good to hear,” Seager deadpanned. “Sometimes you can take bad swings and get hits and other times you’ll feel good and not get hits. For me, the past couple days have started to feel a little bit better.”
It was typical Seager, who has been the Mariners’ steadiest hitter this season. Slumps are rarely acknowledged and always short-lived.
“We knew he was struggling a little,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “The thing about him, you’d never know it with the way he handles and carries himself, whether he’s 10-for-20 or 0-for-21. That’s a sign of a pro right there.”
It was Seager’s 18th home run of the season. It also extended his hitting streak at Rangers Ballpark to 12 games. In 14 games against Texas this season, he’s hitting .414 (24-for-58) with three homers and 10 RBI.
He seemed almost due for success in the eighth.
“That’s all right with me,” Seager said. “I don’t know what the right answer is. That’s a good pitching staff, so it’s not like that’s the case always.”
Indeed, Cotts has only allowed two home runs this season. The other was to Raul Ibañez in Arlington on July 4.
“He’s got good stuff,” Seager said of Cotts. “He’s got a little angle to his ball and it’s got a lot of life on it and he has a cutter and slider to go with it. He’s one of those guys you just have to hang in there at the plate and hopefully get a pitch you can handle.”
Seager’s homer put Hisashi Iwakuma in line for the win. The Mariners’ starter pitched seven strong innings, giving up one run on four hits while striking out eight and walking three.
He was quite happy to see Seager’s shot.
“I was in the dugout and I was yelling, ‘Get over that fence,’ ” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki.
Iwakuma deserved to figure into the decision.
His lone run allowed came in the fourth inning when a leadoff walk to Ian Kinsler proved costly as he came around to score on A.J. Pierzynski’s single to center. But Iwakuma shook it off, working out of minor jams and deep into the game.
“The last two starts against this team, they got me in the sixth and seventh inning, and today I wanted to go through seven innings,” he said.
He accomplished his goal and handed the ball to the Seattle bullpen with a 2-1 lead.
Of course, things have rarely been simple for the Mariners’ bullpen this season.
So an easy closeout of the final two innings for the bullpen after Seager’s homer seemed unlikely – and it wasn’t.
Oliver Perez came in and walked the first batter on four pitches. After getting ahead of Leonys Martin, who was trying to bunt on an 0-2 count, Perez hit him in the thigh to put him on base.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Thompson called on right-hander Yoervis Medina.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus bunted the runners into scoring position and Medina struck out Ian Kinsler after running the count full.
With first base open and the hot-hitting Adrian Beltre coming to the plate, Thompson decided to intentionally walk the former Mariner to load the bases, then have lefty Charlie Furbush face left-handed hitting Pierzynski.
“He’s like one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. Why let that guy beat us?” Thompson said of Beltre. “We aren’t going to take our chances there with Adrian Beltre.
“He lives for those situations.”
Furbush came in from the bullpen and did his job. He got ahead quickly on Pierzynski with two sliders for strikes. Pierzynski watched a slider go by but then got busted on the hands with a Furbush fastball. The result was a broken bat bloop that Seager caught behind third base.
“We talked about going with another slider. I figured I’d go with the heater,” Furbush said. “I wanted to go away, but it went hard in. It worked out all right.”
Justin Smoak gave the beleaguered bullpen some much-needed insurance, blasting his 14th homer – a solo shot deep to right – off Tanner Scheppers to push the lead to 3-1.
“Smoak’s home run was huge,” closer Danny Farquhar said. “You can be so much more aggressive.”
After blowing a save in his previous outing, Farquhar worked a quick 1-2-3 inning to get his sixth save of the season.
“It’s always good after a rough outing to get back on the mound and get after it again,” Farquhar said.