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Mariners OF Kyle Lewis
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Mariners OF Lewis on importance of his 2019 call up, hitting and robbing home runs

Mariners OF Kyle Lewis has four home runs in 2020 through 18 games. (Getty)

When talking about the 2020 Seattle Mariners, it’s almost impossible to start with someone not named Kyle Lewis.

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Lewis, the 25-year-old outfielder who was Seattle’s first-round pick in 2016 and was the first draft pick Jerry Dipoto made as the Mariners’ general manager, has been on fire from the word go this season and is the presumed front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year.

How good has Lewis been in 2020? He has the fourth-highest batting average in MLB with .373, has hit four home runs, driven in 13 runs and has the third-most hits in the league. Speaking of his four home runs, he hit his fourth on Monday night against the Rangers in a game where he had three hits and also walked. He spoke about that three-run home run and more while talking to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Tuesday morning.

“We had a couple runners on base so I was just trying to stay with my approach and make sure I hit something hard,” he said. “I didn’t really want to try too hard to get the runs in and (end up) coming out of my approach and my swing. I was just trying to stay through the ball and he ended up throwing a breaking ball on the inner half (of the plate) that I was able to get some good backspin on, so I was pretty happy to see that one go out.”

Even though 2020 is considered Lewis’ rookie season, he is no stranger to playing in MLB games or hitting MLB home runs. He was called up last September and appeared in 18 games. During those 18 games, Lewis hit six home runs, including one in each of his first three games with the Mariners. He’s carried that success over and then some in 2020, and he says that his brief stint with the big league club last year has been crucial in his development, saying it has helped him relax and slow the game down this season.

“I think being able to come up in September last year I was able to see kind of the flow of the game, how it goes, the way they kind of pitch just from a mentality standpoint and kind of try to set you up a little bit,” Lewis said. “Being able to have an offseason to kind of review that and talk about it back at home and to be able to come back and then restart it over again, I think it helped me out a lot in confidence and going into the box knowing that I’ve faced some of the elite pitchers in the game and that kind of helped me out a lot when I came back.”

Lewis hasn’t only hit home runs this year, he’s also been playing some solid defense in center field. He robbed a home run last week against the Angels in Seattle.

So what’s cooler: hitting a home run or taking one away from the opposition?

“That’s close. … I think hitting a home run is still better because, especially when you’ve got runners on base, you hit the big home run and you run around and get to watch the opposing team staring at you like ‘dang,’ and then you get to cross home plate and all the runners you knocked in are standing there too, so that’s pretty cool, that’s a good feeling,” he said. “But at the same time, when you rob a big home run and you look and see all of your team going crazy and you get to run in the dugout and everyone’s freaking out, that’s pretty cool too.”

The 2020 season is a season like no other for the Mariners and the rest of MLB because of there being just 60 games and there being no fans in the stands because of COVID-19. Because of that, teams have been piping in fan noise and sounds to make it sound like a typical MLB game. Lewis said the season has been both normal and different.

“It’s back and forth. Sometimes it feels normal and then sometimes it’s kind of like big moments where there would normally be a crowd reaction and then there’s not and it gets kind of weird,” he said. “It’s kind of a mix. Like the end of games is kind of awkward because there’s no big crowd eruption right at the end and like the fireworks and whatnot where it would get loud gets kind of awkward.”

But there’s one key factor that has the 2020 games like games in any other season.

“Overall, it’s still competition, so when the lights come on and it’s time to play, people are able to get locked in and still play and give it their best effort, but it’s definitely a little bit different,” he said.

Listen to Lewis’ full interview with Danny and Gallant, where he talks about Dylan Moore and Seattle’s young starting pitchers, at this link or in the player below.

Follow Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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