Servais: Mariners’ bats more aggressive, ‘excited’ about rotation trending up
The Mariners kick off a nine-game road trip Tuesday evening against the Baltimore Orioles, and Seattle enters that three-game series coming off a big series win against their division’s leader.
The start of 2022 hasn’t gone to plan for the Mariners, who are 20-28 as the road trip begins, but they may have taken a big step forward over the weekend when they took two of three from the Houston Astros, who have the second-best record in the American League and are in first place in the AL West.
For manager Scott Servais, he thinks that Seattle showed two really promising signs against Houston that he’s hoping his team builds off of going forward. He explained what those are to Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Jake and Stacy during the weekly Dugout on Tuesday afternoon.
Aggression at the plate
The Mariners have overall, struggled offensively this season, but the bats shined in the team’s two wins over the Astros, scoring six runs in each game while tallying 23 total hits and five home runs.
The Mariners are 18th in baseball in first-pitch swing rate, per Statcast, but in the first win Friday night against future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, the Mariners were very aggressive early in counts. That paid off as Verlander turned in his worst outing of the year, allowing six runs on 10 hits and a walk over six innings.
Servais talked about the Mariners’ aggressive approach on Tuesday.
“It can be game to game,” he said of attacking early in counts, “but I think what we’re learning about our team is we do have the second-youngest position player group in baseball. And I think with younger players, getting their ability to play out, they are better when they’re attacking and when they’re in aggressive mode.”
Servais did make it clear, though, that he doesn’t want guys going up and swinging at the first pitch all the time, and that he particularly wants to make sure his younger players like Julio Rodríguez don’t get overly aggressive.
“Julio is some kind of aggressive if you let him go. So understanding who’s pitching, understanding that there’s a situation (for that),” he said. “But I do think our team with that mindset plays much better. Hopefully we stay with it and when you get your pitch to hit, put a good swing on it. The key to the Verlander game and the other games against the Astros was we’re getting our pitch to hit early in the count and we’re putting in play. We weren’t fouling it off.”
Servais said by not fouling those good pitches to hit, it helps his lineup stay out of pitcher-friendly counts and allows the hitters to do more overall damage.
“So our guys will stay aggressive,” he said. “When you get your pitch to hit, square it up and put it in play.”
Rotation trending up
In addition to two big games from the Mariners’ bats, the starting pitching shined big against Houston.
Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert each threw seven innings to pick up wins on Friday and Saturday, respectively. And while Marco Gonzales was tagged with the loss on Sunday, he pitched very well, allowing just two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Servais is really pleased with what occurred over the weekend with his rotation and thinks that group will be able to keep churning out big-time performances.
“Our starting pitching is solid, it really is. When these guys get rolling, they have the ability to do that. And we saw it play out (when we got) seven innings out of each of the guys over the weekend against an awesome lineup. I mean, the Astros are as deep as any lineup that we’re gonna face,” Servais said. “The key to it all is that these guys are just pounding the strike zone. They were landing their secondary pitches and really working, and we kind of saw the best version of all the guys in their particular outings.”
Flexen was “really sharp,” Servais said, and Gonzales’ changeup was on point, which allows him to slow down opposing hitters. But Servais said that Gilbert, who didn’t allow a single run over seven innings, wasn’t as sharp, and that made his outing that much more impressive.
“Logan has just learned how to work his way through lineups and when it’s not quite there early in the game, find a way to get deep in the game,” he said. ” … A lot of good things going on with our starting rotation. And we’re sending George Kirby out there tonight and are looking for him to give us a deep outing, as well.”
Overall, Servais thinks the arrow is pointing up with Seattle’s five-man rotation.
“I think looking at our team, I am excited about the direction our starting pitching is heading,” he said.
Having consistent starting pitching will allow the Mariners to potentially get on a good run.
“I’m not saying you’re gonna win seven or eight in a row, but you’re in 10 consecutive games in a row. And if you know you’re in those tight games, then it comes down to getting a big hit late in the game and making a big play, and we certainly have the guys that can do that,” he said. “I am excited about the direction of our starting pitching. And those guys, they’re all a little bit different, but I think they’re all very capable of going deep in the ballgame and giving us a chance to win every night. That’s all you really ask.”
You can hear The Scott Servais Show at 1 p.m. every Tuesday on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM. The podcast for this week’s edition is available at this link or in the player below.