SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: 1-run wins setting up another June turnaround?

Jun 6, 2022, 9:18 AM | Updated: 2:52 pm
Mariners Paul Sewald Cal Raleigh...
Mariners pitcher Paul Sewald and catcher Cal Raleigh react after the final out of Sunday's win over Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

“Good vibes only” and “happy flight” were the themes of the afternoon Sunday after the Mariners pulled off an improbable ninth inning comeback and came away with a 6-5 win in 10 innings against the Rangers.

Mariners rally late to beat Texas 6-5, win 3rd straight series

A feel-good win no doubt, but at 24-30, the team still has a long road ahead in climbing out of the hole they dug in May.

J.P. Crawford believes they are on their way.

“I think we are right where we needed to be,” the shortstop said when asked about the importance of taking the series from the Rangers – their third straight series win – before heading into Houston for three games against the Astros. “We were in this spot last year and we started heating up around this time, too. If we continue to progress every day like we have and put in the work every day, I think we are going to be in a good spot.”

Just over a year ago, Mariners fans were witnessing the start of the turnaround from what had been a roller coaster of a first two months of the season. The team teased early then crashed badly while losing key players to injury and the COVID injury list. On June 13, 2021, the Mariners entered a game against Shane Bieber and the then-Indians with a record of 31-35, having dropped road series to the Angels, Tigers and the first three games against Cleveland. That day they came away with the 6-2 win, and they went 59-37 the rest of the way.

Are they set up for something similar at this time? We shall see.

While the starting pitching has been strong the past nine games (in which Seattle is 6-3), the inconsistent offense and porous bullpen could put distance between the team and the corner they need to turn. Perhaps a good sign is the three one-run wins – two of them in extra innings – on the current roadtrip. Finding ways to win these games is a step in the right direction. Add to that the improved performance of reliever Diego Castillo and the expected return of Erik Swanson (elbow soreness) and they could be closing the gap with that corner.

We have seen improvement the past 10 games, but not enough to declare the turn of the corner like we saw in 2021. The question now: Can they sustain and build upon recent success? Time will tell.

Mariners notes

Some highlights from pregame and postgame interviews in the last week:

• While most of reliever Paul Sewald’s numbers so far this year are better than they were a year ago, his strikeouts per nine innings have dropped from 14.5 to 8.8. He struggled on Thursday in Baltimore as he blew the save, but he came back the next day – after throwing 30 pitches in 1 2/3 innings – with a much better slider to lock down the Mariners’ 4-3 win in Game 1 against Texas.

After the win, he admitted in the walkoff interview on the Seattle Sports Mariners Radio Network broadcast that he has had to battle early on this season.

“It started picking up when we were in New York. Once we finally got out of 50-degree weather with rain and cold, it started to get a little bit better,” he said. “It’s been coming along. Nothing feels great right now, everything feels like I am just a tick off from where I was last year, so we will get back after it.”

• In that same interview, Sewald lauded his catcher, Cal Raleigh.

“Cal has taken unbelievable at-bats since he has got back,” he said, referencing Raleigh’s return in early May from a seven-game stint in Triple-A. “I think anybody who is really watching the games instead of watching the stats trying to figure out if he is hitting or not hitting, ever since he got back he’s taken much much better at-bats. If it’s not a homer, it’s a long, deep fly ball, 110 mph exit velocity, and you are like ‘You are literally millimeters off. Keep pushing. You’re fine.’ He’s infinitely better behind the plate; I think everyone has a lot more trust in his pitch calling this year. That’s just part of being a rookie catcher. He’s getting to know the league and he’s doing a great job.”

• While rookie hazing is a thing of the past, there are some rookie duties, and Julio Rodríguez is keeper of the giant traveling boombox.

“It’s good, I have just got to carry it everywhere, kind of bring that little energy for us,” said the American League’s Rookie of the Month for May. “I like to be able to help out the vibe of the team.”

So does he ever get to play his music on the boombox?

“No,” he answered. “I just get to listen to everybody else’s. I’ve got my headphones so I’m good.”

And who plays the best music?

“J.P. always has really good bangers so I am definitely good with him doing it every time. And he does play the Latin music so I’m cool with it.”

• Taylor Trammell went hitless in his first three games after being called up May 22, but since he has slashed .375/.385/.708 for a 1.093 OPS while striking out just four times in 27 plate appearances.

In talking to Taylor about changes he has made with his swing, he rattled off a laundry list of things he was doing wrong last year, noting that the changes he has made with his swing path has been a main focus.

“It’s about making sure that now I am in the zone (with my swing) as long as possible so I can maximize maybe even getting beat or being early on a pitch, being able to make adjustments with my swing,” he said. “I feel like my path right now is getting better, I’m still learning a lot of things but understanding my body and how I am able to get a clean path to the ball.”

Trammell has worked with both Mariners hitting coaches and Driveline instructors in the offseason to rework his swing and it appears to be paying off, as is his work off the field.

“It’s also studying,” he said. “I try to get reports the night before, not just the day of, understanding that it is my job and I am going to do as much as I can to be successful that night.”

• The Sewald comments on Raleigh inspired me to do a Raleigh appreciation piece on the pregame show this week. Logan Gilbert, who goes back to A-ball with Raleigh, was a natural to go to – not just for insight on his work behind the plate but his work at home as the two are roommates. What’s the scoop, Logan?

“He’s good, he’s good,” said Gilbert with a laugh. “He’s a good cook, he does his laundry, all that stuff. He’s a pretty neat guy.”

Good cook?

“He makes a good lasagna and then he made me a couple of breakfast sandwiches. He does it all.”

What more could you want in a catcher?

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Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: 1-run wins setting up another June turnaround?