SEATTLE MARINERS

Blowers: 3 good signs from Mariners’ Ty France, Julio Rodríguez, Kyle Lewis

May 29, 2022, 4:36 PM | Updated: 5:05 pm
Mariners Ty France...
Ty France hits a solo home run for the Mariners on Friday off Houston's Justin Verlander. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ offense has shaken off its recent lack of production for the most part, scoring four runs or more in eight of Seattle’s last 11 games. Three players in particular are playing big roles in that improvement.

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During the Blowers on Baseball segment of the Mariners radio pregame show Sunday on Seattle Sports, ROOT Sports color commentator and former MLB third baseman Mike Blowers explained how the return of Kyle Lewis, the dynamic play of rookie Julio Rodríguez, and Ty France’s hot streak have all factored into boosting the offense.

Here’s a look at Blowers’ conversation with play-by-play announcer Aaron Goldsmith.

K-Lew’s return

Lewis returned Tuesday from nearly a year out of action due to a torn meniscus and reconstructive surgery to his right knee, and he’s had an immediate impact. In four games so far, he’s 4 for 15 (.267) with two homers, three RBIs and three runs scored. Having been slotted seventh in the order, his presence noticeably lengthens Seattle’s lineup.

“It’s a big boost having Kyle back – homered in the first two games of this series,” Blowers said before the series finale against Houston. “Hopefully he can stay healthy.”

That’s the biggest question. Lewis is clearly still regaining the strength in his right knee, as can be seen when he runs the bases (he’s still not sprinting 100%). It’s also why he will not play the outfield for the time being and will get regular days off like he did for Sunday’s day game following a Saturday night contest.

While Lewis has been a boost in the bottom third of the batting order, Blowers is skeptical he’ll stay that low for long based on his early results.

“I like that he’s the DH. They’re getting some production now from the bottom of the order because he’s hitting seventh – I don’t know how long that’s gonna last.”

The impact of Lewis on the bottom third of the lineup was apparent Sunday in an unfortunate manner, however. With Lewis unavailable on a scheduled day off, the Mariners couldn’t push a run across when they had runners in scoring position both in the seventh and ninth innings for the No. 7 spot. Mike Ford struck out in the seventh, and while he walked in the ninth to load the bases, Luis Torrens hit into a double play in the next plate appearance to end the game.

The Mariners’ emerging phenom

Rodríguez, just 21 years old, has been a revelation at the plate, on the bases and in center field for Seattle. His 14 stolen bases lead the league, his fielding has been strong, and he has been on a tear offensively since late April. Entering Sunday, Rodríguez had slashed .323/.367/.523 for an .890 OPS with six homers, six doubles and a triple in his previous 34 games.

In the first inning of a 6-0 win over the Astros on Saturday night, Rodríguez showed a game-changing ability that jumped out to Blowers even though it started with a fielder’s choice.

“It’s taken a little while, but the emergence of Julio and what he’s been able to do is has been incredible,” Blowers said. “You can look at (Saturday) night, and there’s a lot of guys that had a good night, including Julio. But when you’re talking about different things in the way games are going to go, think about the first inning of the game. He hits into a fielder’s choice, he’s at first base with two outs, nothing’s happening, he immediately steals second. (Then J.P. Crawford hits a) ground ball through the infield, he scores, you’re up 1-0. That’s pretty impressive to see what he’s capable of doing.”

After helping the M’s manufacture the first run of the game, Rodríguez went on to have a great game in the box score, going 3 for 5 with a double.

“He ends up with three hits last night, he hit a homer the day before to the opposite field – he’s really coming into his own,” Blowers said. “He’s so dynamic as an athlete. I’m really excited to see where this is gonna go for him.”

Red-hot Ty France

France extended his career-long hitting streak to 11 games on Sunday, but it was a swing he put on a pitch Saturday night that exemplified his talents. France appeared to be fooled by an off-speed pitch, but he was able to “press pause” on his swing, as Aaron Goldsmith put it, then slap the ball into center.

“Can you explain what that was and why that was so special?” Goldsmith asked Blowers.

The response: “It’s really hard to do. And the one thing that (France) does on a consistent basis – and you’ll hear hitting coaches talk about this, (Mariners manager Scott Servais) even talks about it from time to time – is how long he keeps the barrel in the hitting zone. It just stays in there forever. And he was fooled on that pitch. He was not on time at all, so he had to kind of slow everything down and then finish it on a pitch. Not many guys can do that.”

Even though France didn’t put much on that hit, the important thing was that he was able to put it in play.

“It was one of those things where it was a routine ground ball that is up the middle, but he gives himself a chance because he put it in play, and he does it all the time,” Blowers said.

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Swings like that help France rack up multi-hit games, something he’s done six times over his 11-game streak.

“He’s hitting well over .400 (during the streak). It’s not like he’s checking in 1 for 4 – he’s doing a lot of damage in there, too,” Blowers said. “But the one thing for me, if you look at where guys are improving, and I don’t know if he can maintain it, but he doesn’t strike out.

“He just he puts the ball in play against really good pitching. He can hit really good pitching, which is also a separator, but for Ty, the barrel of his bat stays in the hitting area for a very long time so that if he’s beat, he can hit it to right field, if he’s out in front of an off-speed pitch, he can hit a line drive into left field, or even if everything’s falling apart, he can pause that swing for a second and then force it back up the middle. He’s amazing. I think he’s one of those guys that has had a really good plan, I think he’s always been a really good hitter and we’re just starting to see it.”

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