Servais: Mariners’ lineup is deepest, most complete it’s been all year
On Monday night, the Mariners put eight runs on the board on 11 hits and six walks in a victory over the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays.
They should just be getting started, too, according to their manager.
On Tuesday’s Scott Servais Show on 710 ESPN Seattle, the Mariners skipper was singing the praises of his lineup that recently added switch-hitting infielder Abraham Toro in a trade with Houston and saw the return of outfielder Jake Fraley from the COVID-19 injured list.
“As I wrote up the lineup card for yesterday’s game, I thought, ‘Wow, this is the deepest lineup we’ve had at any point this season,'” Servais said.
The key to Seattle’s 8-2 win, outside of an excellent outing by starting pitcher Chris Flexen, was a five-run second inning, something Servais expects the Mariners’ new-look lineup to do with more regularity going forward.
“You saw it in last night’s game – we really didn’t get a whole lot going in the first inning, you look up in the second inning and we are grinding at-bats and now all of the sudden the lineup flips over to the top of the lineup and we put together a big inning,” he said. “That happens because you’ve got depth throughout your lineup. … I think you’re going to see a lot more nights like we saw last night where maybe the starting pitcher isn’t quite on his A-game, we’re able to grind out some at-bats and you look up and we put that big, crooked number up there.”
There’s another factor Servais pointed to that will help Seattle’s offense, which is the fact that Toro and rookie catcher Cal Raleigh, who joined the team just over three weeks ago, are both switch hitters. Combine that with getting back Fraley, who has a .416 on-base percentage, and the Mariners’ batting order suddenly looks considerably longer than a week ago.
“The ability to have two switch hitters in your lineup and be much more balanced right-left-right-left – and Jake Fraley, I’m really excited to have him back, as well – it just completes our lineup,” Servais sad. “… Now because we are so deep and we are more balanced, what Raleigh and Toro bring as switch hitters, it’s huge. I really look for our offense to take a big step forward here over the final 50, 60 games of the season.”
Hitters like J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger, Ty France and Kyle Seager have all seemed to carry the Mariners’ offense at various points this year, but Servais thinks they’ll have more help the rest of the way as Seattle attempts to make a push for the playoffs.
“It’s not just one or two guys you’re leaning on to hit a home run or something like that,” he said. “I’m excited about what our lineup looks like right now and about it going forward beyond this year. We’ve got some good hitters and some guys that can continue to get better.”
The new guy in the Mariners’ clubhouse
Servais said he’s been impressed so far by Toro, who picked up his bags and moved them across the field last Tuesday when the Mariners acquired him in a trade from Houston during a three-game series between the M’s and Astros.
Toro is a “really intelligent guy” who speaks English, French and Spanish – though, “I say all that, he’s pretty quiet,” Servais quipped.
The Mariners have been using Toro at second base, a position the natural third baseman has very little experience at. He’s already showing progress thanks in part to coaching from Seattle assistant Perry Hill, who is known as a guru for infielders.
“Just watching him come in and work, Perry Hill and him spending so much time together at second base and getting him comfortable over there, you see the improvements already,” Servais said. “I thought he made a phenomenal play last night on a ball up the middle, backhanded it, nice one-hop throw across the diamond to get him at first base.”
The big reason Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto traded for Toro, however, is that Seattle likes his bat. Toro has wasted no time showing why, hitting 9 for 21 (.429) with two home runs, three doubles, two walks and a hit-by-pitch in his first six games with the team.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him offensively,” Servais. “He knows the strike zone. I love the fact that he’s a switch hitter, it really balances our lineup so you don’t get too right or left and you can stick him right in the middle of it. He brings a lot to the table and the beauty of it all is he’s just 24 years old.”
The Scott Servais Show airs live at 1 p.m. every Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy, with Mariners insider Shannon Drayer joining Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost to interview Servais. Listen to the full podcast of this week’s show at this link or in the player below.