Drayer: Lewis shines with 2 home runs in Mariners’ first intrasquad game
If intrasquad action is the only game action the Mariners can get before those that count begin, they will take them. After the long layoff, they were grateful for the opportunity to compete.
“(Justus Sheffield) and I looked at each other before the game, ‘Are you as juiced up as I am?'” “Steelheads” starter Justin Dunn said after his 2-inning start. “I was super happy to get out there and get 2 innings of good work in there and face some good hitters.”
The good hitters took their toll with J.P. Crawford and Kyle Lewis homering back-to-back off Dunn in the first inning. Dunn fell behind both hitters in the count and came back with what he called “challenge fastballs” – the one to Lewis on the inner third of the plate, which he hit off the out of town scoreboard above the Mariners bullpen in left-center field.
“Me and Kyle had a lot of days to talk about sequencing hitters. I literally think I asked him about that sequence 1,000 times, so I am going to tick that off to he knew that was coming,” said Dunn. “But I’m his ride home, so he’s probably going to be walking today. Either that or he’s not getting food.”
Time will tell what these intrasquad games do to pitcher/hitter relationships on the team, but for now Dunn and Lewis remain good friends.
“Maybe Uber,” said Lewis when told he might not have a ride home. “It was cool against him we have been playing ‘MLB The Show’ long enough trying and see what each guy was going to throw. He went with two sliders then a fastball in. We’ve been talking about that a lot so it was a lot of fun to go back and forth. We will be able to talk about that later on too, so that’s cool.”
Lewis, who took Nick Margevicius out to right in his second at bat, has looked locked in all week. While first spring outings you see hitters trying to get their timing or used to a new mechanic, there has been none of that with Lewis.
“I’m really comfortable trying to compete and have confidence in my approach and sticking to it and not coming off of it when they try to sequence me in different ways,” he said. “That’s the main thing I have been trying to hit on is trying to be consistent in what I am trying to do. Being able to do that is a win.”
Lewis has been the talk of camp from day one. Perhaps forgotten due to injury as other Mariners prospects grabbed the spotlight he was a first round pick for a reason. One person who hasn’t forgotten is Dunn who when asked a year ago in a get-to-know interview who the best hitter he faced in college was answered Kyle Lewis, calling him the best college hitter in baseball that year. What we are seeing now according to Dunn is what we are supposed to see.
“I’ve seen Kyle be Kyle,” he said. “I call him ‘Showtime,’ ‘Superstar.’ He’s that type of player, he has that type of potential. Every time he is on the field it’s going to be something special to watch. He looks a lot more balanced, a lot more controlled, confident. I think he’s going to be really scary this year.”
The game between the Steelheads and Pilots ended after the 6th inning in a 3-3 tie with Rule 5 pick Yohan Ramirez giving up the three runs for the Steelheads. Dee Gordon and Evan White picking up the RBIs on singles. Justus Sheffield got good work in throwing 2 innings of scoreless baseball.
“I was pretty pumped up,” he said. “The nerves were flowing. It felt like a normal start, waking up in the morning trying to get in that starter routine. It was definitely weird at first but once I got between those lines everything just settled in and it was just baseball. Definitely weird but I think once we get going it’s going to get more normal.”
If you closed your eyes the game felt and sounded somewhat normal despite the canned crowd noise that was played over the sound system.
When you opened your eyes, very little was normal. Mariners were facing Mariners, the stands were empty except for the coaches there to comply with social distancing and team personnel looking on. There were no bat boys, players had to retrieve their own caps and gloves after innings ended and mound visits looked awkward with the distancing. This is baseball right now but the Mariners will adjust and look to get as much out of these inadequate games as they possibly can.