Mariners Takeaways: Scott Servais on Ty France’s defense, Jarred Kelenic’s ABs, Marco Gonzales’ improvement
Entering the season, the Mariners knew that Ty France had an everyday spot in their lineup. They just didn’t know where he would play defense.
Early in the year, if France wasn’t the designated hitter, he played second base and spelled Kyle Seager at third base just as much as he played first base. But with a season-ending injury to 2020 Gold Glove first baseman Evan White, France has become Seattle’s primary option at the position.
He no longer looks like somebody filling in for a Gold Glove winner, however. He’s actually playing like a Gold Glove candidate himself at first.
“In his mind, he has found a home at first base,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s weekly Scott Servais Show. “He’s super comfortable over there, he’s picked up our team multiple times, and I love having him over there because when the ball’s hit his way, it’s an out.”
According to Fielding Bible, France has three defensive runs saved in 2021, ranking second among American League first baseman behind only Oakland’s Matt Olson (four). It’s been quite the revelation for a player whose glove was a question mark coming into the season.
“He’s worked as hard as anybody we have on the defensive side, just trying to get more comfortable doing all the little things that maybe the casual fan doesn’t notice,” Servais said.
One play in particular sticks out to Seattle’s skipper – the 3-6-3 double play, which France has shown to be adept at this season.
“Just being so confident with his backhand as a right-handed thrower allows us that little second, those inches in a game that make a huge difference, and he’s perfected it,” he said. “… The ability to start a double play from his end has been just awesome to see because that’s a tough one to turn and we’ve turned multiple of those this year, the 3-6-3.”
Something else that makes France’s defense so important? It keeps his bat in the lineup.
“We’re not even talking about his offense. He’s been just phenomenal how consistent he’s been offensively,” Servais said.
Here are a few more things that jumped out from this week’s Scott Servais Show.
Marco Gonzales’ return to form
After a bumpy first half of the season, the Mariners’ opening day starter has been on a great run as of late. Over his last five starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA with 25 strikeouts to eight walks over 32 1/3 innings. His last outing was not just his best of 2021 but the only complete game thrown by a Mariners starter all season, as he held Texas to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out nine on Aug. 12.
Servais spoke about how big Gonzales’ improvement has been and what has gone into it.
“It’s really nice to get Marco back on track, and he has been a different guy since he’s come out of the (All-Star) break. … Credit to him, he’s really been able to focus on getting back to what he’s really good at, and that’s of course commanding the baseball. He’s been throwing a lot of fastballs at the top of the zone, that’s been very effective. Certain days he’s got an awesome changeup, other days he uses his curveball a little bit more depending on the lineup we’re facing.
“Excited to see where he’s at. This is the Marco that we know and love. Still a great competitor. The fact that he goes out there and throws a complete game for us last time out was just awesome to see. He had it rolling and I hope he keeps it rolling because we’re going to need him here down the stretch.”
Jarred Kelenic making progress
Another Mariners player trending in the right direction is highly-touted rookie Jarred Kelenic. Servais talked about what he’s seen not just at the plate but in center field from the 22 year old.
“Jarred’s starting to put together consistent at-bats and it’s been great to see. I think the biggest thing is he’s much more relaxed now. He’s just trying to do anything he can any given night to help us win a ballgame.
“I think it goes a little bit under the radar the job he’s done in center field. He’s made a lot of critical catches for us out there. We’re asking a lot of him, I think he’s played every game since we’ve called him back up in center, and he’s done a heck of a job out there. Of course everybody’s going to track what he does in the batter’s box, and that’s become more consistent, as well.
“The biggest thing is he’s just slowing it down, he’s trying to get good pitches to hit. You know, he’s made a few adjustments and it’s paid off, and I’m really happy for him. He’s coming to the ballpark with a smile on his face every day and just trying to figure out how to get better.”
Mariners back on the road
The M’s kick off a tough eight-game road trip Tuesday with the first of three games against the Rangers, a team that has given them a surprising amount of trouble this year. After that, they will take on Houston and Oakland, the top two teams in their division.
Servais doesn’t want to see what a repeat of what happened to Seattle the last time they were in Texas, and he knows how the Mariners can avoid it.
“Back in Texas, we were just here a few weeks ago and lost a couple close games. We need to have a little bit more offense on this trip – that’s the big thing. We need to be more consistent offensively. You need to hit to win on the road – I’ve always said it and I’m barking it again.”
You can listen to the full Scott Servais Show at this link or in the player below.