Kyle Seager didn’t know the specifics. The fact that he was hitless in his last 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 on Friday night.
With the Mariners down 1-0 and looking at being shutout for the third time this season at Rangers Ballpark, Seager changed the entire game with one swing, blasting a two-run homer to right field of reliever Neal Cotts. It gave the Seattle Mariners a lead they would not relinquish in a 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers.
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“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 feel a little bit better.”
It’s 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 his last 15 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 alright 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, who Seager hit the homer off of, has only allowed two home runs all season. The other was to Raul Ibanez 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 just 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 lead-off walk to Ian Kinsler proved costly as he came around to score on A.J. Pierzynski’s single to left. But Iwakuma shook it off, worked 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, nothing has been simple for the Mariners bullpen and no lead has proved to be completely safe in any game this season.
So an easy close out 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 he faced on four pitches. And then after getting ahead of Leonys Martin, who was trying to bunt, 0-2, 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. Elvis Andrus sacrifice 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 and then have lefty Charlie Furbush face left-handed hitting A.J. 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 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 alright.”
Justin Smoak gave the beleaguered bullpen some much-needed insurance, blasting his 14th homer – a solo shot deep to right – off of Tanner Scheppers to push the lead to 3-1.
“Smoak’s home run was huge,” said closer Danny Farquhar. “You can be so much more aggressive.”
After blowing a save in his last 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.