Mariners Takeaways: Servais on Toro’s hot streak, starting pitchers, Sewald

Aug 10, 2021, 3:59 PM | Updated: 4:03 pm
Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales...
Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales was stellar in two starts during Seattle's recent road trip. (Getty)

The Mariners are still hanging around in the chase for an American League wild card spot, but after going 4-6 on this most recent road trip, the team has more work to do as they begin a six-game homestand Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers.

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His club may have been under .500 on the 10-game road trip, but Mariners manager Scott Servais still had plenty of positives to take away from his team’s three series against the Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees.

Here are three key takeaways Servais shared on The Scott Servais Show, which airs on 710 ESPN Seattle every Tuesday at 1 p.m. with Jake and Stacy and Mariners insider Shannon Drayer.

How ’bout the new guy?

The prize return in the widely-discussed Kendall Graveman trade with the Houston Astros, the 24-year-old switch-hitting Abraham Toro has been one of the best hitters in baseball since coming to Seattle from Houston.

In 12 games with the Mariners, Toro is slashing .386/.460/.682 with three home runs, seven RBIs and a stolen base. That’s helped him accumulate 0.9 Wins Above Replacement, which is already tied for the 11th-most WAR on the Mariners.

During this recent road trip, Toro hit .385 with a home run and three RBIs in 10 games.

Servais was asked about the type of hitter Toro is and can develop into, and he heaped plenty of praise the young infielder’s way.

“I think he might have more power maybe than anyone anticipated … I think potentially there’s more power that will come,” Servais said. “But I love his ability to control the strike zone. That’s what excites me the most is that he doesn’t chase.”

It may be an early sample size, but in 50 plate appearances in a Mariners uniform, Toro has more walks (five) than strikeouts (four), and he’d done so while hitting for power and average from both sides of the plate. Servais sees a very bright future for Toro if he can keep that kind of approach up.

“When you’re a switch hitter and you’re swinging at the right pitches all the time and you have the chance to have some power and you hit the ball hard, there’s going to be a lot of good things coming to your future,” he said. “He’s going to do a lot of great things for us.”

Starting pitching has been top notch

The Mariners’ rotation was stellar over the road trip despite the team going 4-6 overall. As a result, in the month of August, Seattle starters rank first in the American League with a 2.38 ERA.

Servais naturally is happy with how his five starters have performed of late.

“I’m really excited about what our guys have done. That whole 10-game trip, our starters gave us a chance to win every one of those games,” he said. “And that’s all we can ask. It may not sound like a big deal, but it really is.”

Two starters in particular have stood out to Servais with their recent performances.

“The pickup of Tyler Anderson I think goes under the radar a little bit,” he said of Seattle’s trade acquisition from the Pittsburgh Pirates. “He’s been outstanding. Instead of us scrambling for the extra starter and going with a bullpen day on those days, he’s come in and done exactly what we’d hoped he would bring to us with a lot of stability there. He has a good idea of who he is.”

In two starts with the Mariners, Anderson has a 4.35 ERA in 10 1/3 innings and has seven strikeouts to two walks.

Another lefty has also impressed the skipper of late.

“I really like the way Marco Gonzales has thrown the ball recently,” he said. “I know he struggled in the first half with the injuries and couldn’t get any rhythm going, but he’s looked great the last couple times out.”

Gonzales battled injuries and inconsistencies early in the season, but on the road trip he started two games and tallied 12 2/3 innings while allowing just one run and striking out nine.

With Anderson in the mix and Gonzales looking like his old self, the Mariners suddenly have a pretty potent five-man starting rotation.

“Every night you run somebody out there who you feel really good about, who’s going to get you deep into the ballgame, that has a chance to win the game for us, and it hasn’t been that way all year long for us,” Servais said. “That really excites me going forward over the last six or seven weeks of the season.”

Bullpen’s been great, but Sewald has been huge

Many Mariners fans are still upset at the trade of Graveman to a division rival, but the team kept its best reliever at the deadline in Paul Sewald, who has been exceptional in his first year in Seattle after signing as a minor league free agent in the offseason.

After four disappointing years with the New York Mets, Sewald has become one of the best relievers in baseball with the Mariners.

Since joining the MLB team in May, Sewald has a 7-3 record with four saves and a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings. He’s really excelled at missing bats, as evidenced by his 63 strikeouts, which gives him a rate of 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings. His strikeout percentage, whiff rate, expected batting average, expected weighted on-base average and expected ERA all rank in the 97th percentile or better, per Statcast. His expected slugging percentage (93rd percentile), fastball spin (87th percentile), average exit velocity (86th percentile) and hard hit percentage (83rd percentile) are all top notch, as well.

Servais called the bullpen the “backbone of our team all year long” and that Sewald on Sunday against the Yankees evidenced that.

With two runners on and one out in the sixth inning, Sewald struck out two batters to get out of the inning. He added two more punchouts in a clean seventh inning as well. That kept the game scoreless.

“He really flipped the game for us. He changed the whole momentum of that game,” Servais said. “We brought him in maybe a little bit earlier than he normally comes into the game, but we just felt it was a key moment in the game. And he came in and slammed the door shut and allowed us to kind of change the momentum on the field and in our dugout, and then we were able to put a couple runs up and (Drew) Steckenrider came in behind him. It’s been a couple different guys for us all year long, but what Sewald has done for us has really been huge.”

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