Mariners’ Servais: Graveman, bullpen are ‘unsung’ heroes of Seattle’s start
The Mariners are coming off their biggest win of the 2021 season and maybe their best win of their rebuild after beating the reigning World Series champion Dodgers 4-3 on Monday night.
From last night: M’s keep rolling, beat world champion Dodgers 4-3
Seattle will look to pull off a two-game sweep of the defending champs Tuesday afternoon with staff ace Marco Gonzales on the mound, but the Mariners will also be riding a red-hot bullpen and getting a key boost in the lineup and outfield.
Mariners manager Scott Servais discussed that and more Tuesday morning on The Scott Servais Show, which airs weekly on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy with co-hosts Jake Heaps, Stacy Rost, and Mariners insider Shannon Drayer. Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the show.
One word for the bullpen? Fantastic.
Per the Mariners’ pre-game notes for Tuesday’s contest, Seattle’s bullpen has thrown 22 innings in a row without allowing an earned run and 17 1/3 innings without allowing a run in general. It’s the club’s longest scoreless streak from the bullpen since May 2021.
The bullpen came up big for the Mariners again on Monday, with four relievers combining for 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
“Our bullpen has just been fantastic,” Servais said. “For me, it’s been kind of the unsung hero for what we’ve done so far early in the season.”
Servais’ best arms early on have been closer Rafael Montero, left-hander Anthony Misiewicz, Rule 5 pick Will Vest, and best of all Kendall Graveman, who was huge Monday night with 1 2/3 innings.
Servais pointed out that most guys in the pen have different backgrounds in terms of how they came to the Mariners. That’s not uncommon for a bullpen, but Servais said it’s never clear how that group will “gel.” This group certainly has so far in 2021, though.
“They’ve done an outstanding job coming in, attacking the strike zone, and they’ve all got really good secondary pitches so the strikeout is really starting to play in it for us,” he said. “That’s really important. If you come out of the bullpen you’ve got to have a pitch to strike them out every once in a while.”
The man who’s leading the charge in the bullpen is Graveman, who is in his first full season as a reliever. He signed with the Mariners ahead of the 2020 season to be a starter, but a tumor in his spine led to an injured list stint as well as a move to the bullpen, which was made permanent this year.
Graveman has appeared in six games and thrown 7 1/3 scoreless innings this season. He has eight strikeouts and has allowed only four total baserunners.
“He’s a leader by nature,” Servais said of Graveman. “He’s a guy who likes to pull guys along with him.”
Graveman made it clear after the Mariners’ opening day win over the Giants that the message he has delivered to the bullpen is that the team as a whole will only go as far as the bullpen goes.
Now, Graveman is not just leading by his words, but he’s leading by example with his great start to the 2021 season. And he’s having more fun now as a reliever then he ever did as a starter.
“Absolutely not,” he told reporters after Monday’s win when asked if he misses being in the rotation. “The adrenaline is fun. It’s a lot different. It’s a different ballgame coming out of the bullpen and I really don’t (miss starting).”
Graveman used to be a starter that relied on his fastball/sinker and changeup. Now, he’s using that fastball and a hard slider/cutter that has produced great results. He’s also going right after hitters with his best stuff when he gets in the games.
“Mentality-wise, I really think I fit down there,” he said. “The game’s really slowed (down) for me, even in those (high-leverage) moments.”
Graveman showed that in a very high-leverage situation Monday, coming in with two runners on and one out in the seventh inning while the Mariners held a 4-3 lead. He worked out of that jam and then pitched a scoreless eighth inning, as well.
Kyle Lewis is back
After missing the first 17 games of the 2021 season, 2020 American League Rookie of the Year outfielder Kyle Lewis is back for the series finale against the Dodgers. He had been out since late in spring training due to a bruised knee.
“Kyle Lewis is in the lineup today, folks. Your reigning Rookie of the Year will hit second in the lineup today,” Servais happily said. “… He’ll be in center field today and we’ll slide Taylor Trammell over to left field.”
Lewis’ 2020 season was phenomenal as he was easily one of the Mariners’ best players. He recorded a .262/.364/.437 slash line with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs in 58 games on his way to being the unanimous Rookie of the Year.
Naturally, Servais is thrilled to have Lewis back in the fold.
“It means a lot,” Servais said. “Certainly he had an outstanding year last year, and he’s missed being a part of what we’re doing. He’s a great player but he’s really a great teammate. He likes being in the middle of it all.”
While the Mariners have missed Lewis’ presence, Servais is happy with how they treated his recovery period.
“He feels really, really good,” Servais said. “I’m glad we did not rush him back. We gave him time to progress along and I’m looking forward to seeing him out there, and now we’ve got to keep him healthy the rest of the year.”
Day off for Ty France
While Lewis is making his long-awaited return to the Mariners’ lineup, one of the team’s best hitters will miss the series finale.
Infielder/designated hitter Ty France has been locked in to the No. 2 spot of Servais’ lineup card since opening day, but he’ll have the day off after getting drilled in the right forearm by a Dustin May fastball on Monday.
“Unfortunately Ty France is going to be out of today’s game,” Servais said. “He’s a little sore obviously with getting hit by about a 95 mph fastball in the forearm last night. I thought it was best to give him (the day off).”
The good news, though, is that it’s expected to be just that: a day off.
“Ty will be OK,” Servais said. “He’s got a bad bruise and it’s on his throwing arm. We’ll stay away from him (Tuesday) and we have the day off (Wednesday), so I’d expect that he can get back in the lineup when we get over to Boston.”
When France does get back, Servais will again lock him in to that No. 2 spot behind leadoff hitter Mitch Haniger.
“K-Lew is in the two-hole today, but Ty will go back to the two-hole and we’ll start to lengthen our lineup after that,” Servais said.
You can listen to the full Scott Servais Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.