The key change Mariners’ offense showed in series win over Astros

Apr 18, 2022, 4:08 PM
Mariners Adam Frazier...
Mariners 2B Adam Frazier connects for an RBI triple against the Astros on Friday. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners head into this week back at .500 after their series win over the defending American League West Division champion Houston Astros over the weekend, and maybe the biggest reason for that series win was the offense.

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Seattle handled Houston 11-1 in its home opener Friday night, and while two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander shut down the Mariners’ bats over eight scoreless innings to lead the Astros to a 4-0 win Saturday, the M’s responded Sunday with a 7-2 victory. All told, Seattle outscored Houston 18-7 over the series, scoring in six of its eight offensive innings on Friday and putting together a five-run fourth inning Sunday.

Offensive outbursts like that were hard for Seattle to come by during their 90-win 2021 season, and even during their season-opening road trip in Minnesota and Chicago. So what’s the difference?

On Monday’s edition of Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show, the lineup was put in the spotlight during a conversation with Mariners analyst Ryan Rowland-Smith, a regular on the Mariners postgame show on Seattle Sports and who served as color commentator on the ROOT Sports broadcast of Sunday’s game. Rowland-Smith said the key is how Seattle has lengthened its lineup, meaning they have more capable hitters they can turn to.

“You go back to last year and obviously the big sticking point was the 7-8-9,” said Rowland-Smith, a former Mariners pitcher. “You’d roll into the 7-8-9 hitters and you’re thinking, ‘Well, OK, I don’t really have to do a whole lot if I’m pitching against that kind of lineup.’ It’s a real weak link because you can pitch around that fifth guy and that sixth guy and then get to some guys who really scuffling and it was one after the next.”

The Mariners made several additions on offense that have helped build out their batting order, including All-Stars Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. Another All-Star the M’s picked up in a trade, though, may be having the biggest impact on the lineup’s length.

“One guy that you tend to forget about who is such a big impact because of the contact he makes is Adam Frazier,” Rowland-Smith said. “He was off to a little bit of a slow start but you could see that that was not going to last, and you could see it this weekend.”

Frazier broke out in the Houston series, going 4 for 5 with a double, a triple and four RBIs on Friday, and finishing the three games 7 for 13 at the plate. His presence in the leadoff spot has allowed Seattle to move J.P. Crawford, last year’s leadoff hitter, farther down the lineup, which Rowland-Smith explained is a luxury.

“When you have (Frazier) at the top of that lineup, all of a sudden you can push a J.P. down to the bottom part of the lineup. … I want to just make sure we’re clear on this, this is not like, ‘Oh yeah, J.P. belongs at the bottom of a lineup.’ He doesn’t. He’s such a good hitter and a tough out that, man, when you can get a guy like that, a left-handed bat down in among that 7-8-9, it just takes so much pressure off the other guys and you can create parts where one through nine, as a pitcher, there’s just no holes, no weak links that you can pitch around.”

You can hear the full conversation between Rowland-Smith and Mike Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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