SEATTLE — Last Monday night Kyle Seager was not happy.
The Seattle Mariners’ losing streak had been bloated to seven games after the expected dregs of the division, the Houston Astros, smacked around Felix Hernandez. Seager made a crucial drop of a throw at third. His batting average was a grieving .164. Staring sternly after the game, Seager made it clear he’d experienced better days.
Wednesday, he hit two home runs, including a walk-off, to trump those same Astros. He began binging. Two hits Friday, two hits Saturday, including another home run, then the capper Sunday.
Seager homered in consecutive at-bats in the seventh and eighth inning. His three-run homer in the eighth shoved the Mariners in front of the Texas Rangers, 6-5, at Safeco Field. A rare systematic ninth inning from closer Fernando Rodney made it stand. The Mariners had won a series for the first time since the opening series of the season. The start of the week was swept away.
“There’s nothing like positive results in this game,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Seattle hitting coach Howard Johnson will explain that Seager gets too “rotational” when a slump occurs. Johnson said Seager was getting “around” pitches as opposed to through, trying to achieve almost strictly by using his upper body.
They worked on top-hand positioning, side flips and attempts at mind-clearing. They adjusted his derriere, too. That was dropping too much during the doldrums.
So, Sunday, when Texas Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando threw a 1-0 changeup with runners on first and second, Seager had a mechanical fix that has produced an epic week of four home runs in five games.
“This is a good roll, and I’ll try to continue,” Seager said.
Ogando stumbled into trouble because of a strong at-bat from Justin Smoak and bad luck. Smoak hit a 1-2 pitch for a double to left field that bounced just short of the wall. Dustin Ackley hit for Cole Gillespie. His grounder bounced over third baseman Adrian Beltre and to shortstop Elvis Andrus. With Beltre off the bag after the grounder, Smoak shuffled into third. Andrus was too far away to get the swift Ackley at first. He didn’t throw. Seager, who had hit a solo homer in the seventh inning, walked into his second big moment of the day.
The first, like the start of his week, had not gone well. He struck out with the bases loaded in the fourth inning against left-handed Texas starter Matt Harrison. Harrison was making his first start since April 6, 2013. Since, he had a surgery to repair a herniated disk, a second surgery to stabilize the first and surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his non-throwing arm. With TOS, a rib is compressing a vein, artery, or the nerve bundle. Doctors often remove the rib to provide relief.
Harrison can be a dominator of fellow left-handers. In 2012, his last full season when he was the Rangers’ pitcher of the year, left-handers hit .209 against Harrison. Seager was his southpaw prey in the fourth inning Sunday before revelatory late-game at-bats against two right-handers.
The bullpen kept the Mariners relevant. Starter Brandon Maurer lasted 32/3 insufficient innings. He allowed five earned runs on seven hits. The caveat for Maurer, however, is that his route to back to Seattle has been rushed by other starters’ injuries.
Lucas Luetge, Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen, Danny Farquhar and Rodney pitched 51/3 scoreless innings. They allowed a hit. Farquhar earned his first career win, Rodney his fifth save.
“They saved us,” McClendon said.
In nine mostly careening appearances this season, only twice has Rodney not allowed a baserunner. Sunday was his first 1-2-3 inning of the year. Thus far, his arrival on the mound only assures tension.
“It’s hard to get your closer in a routine when you lose eight in a row,” McClendon said. “When he gets the work, he can be sharp. I think he was very determined (Sunday) to get it over with quickly.”
The double doors for the clubhouse exit were propped open after the game. Clubhouse attendants lugged filled travel bags into a truck for the 10-14 Mariners, who are about to start a 10-day road trip. Wednesday, Seager’s walk-off homer won the game. Friday, a diving stop by Smoak rescued Rodney’s maligned appearance. Sunday, Seager struck again. The mood has improved.
“Give us 50 games or so, then we’ll figure out what we got,” McClendon said. “The one thing about that eight-game losing streak, they all figured out that they survived it and they’re still OK. Sometimes, that type of adversity makes you better.”