Mariners’ Dipoto: Neris, Astros may have ‘helped us find our personality’

Jun 9, 2022, 2:54 PM
Mariners Astros...
Both dugouts empty after Ty France was hit by a pitch from Astros pitcher Hector Neris on June 6, 2022. (AP photo/Michael Wyke)
(AP photo/Michael Wyke)

The Mariners hit their Thursday off day with their heads held very high.

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Yes, the team is still five games under .500 at 26-31, but they’ve won four series in a row and eight of their last 12 games. Two of those series wins came over the Houston Astros, including their most recent series win. That series win was notable not just because it was the first time Seattle took a series in Houston since September 2018, but because of the fireworks that happened during the series opener on Monday.

In the ninth inning with the Mariners up 5-4, first baseman Ty France came to the plate with two outs. Astros reliever Héctor Neris hit France in the back with a pitch and after some words were exchanged between the two dugouts, the benches cleared.

Ultimately, the Mariners got the upper hand of the exchange as Julio Rodriguez clubbed a two-run homer during the next at-bat and Seattle won 7-4 before taking the series on Wednesday.

Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto joined Mike Salk for his weekly visit on Seattle Sports 710 AM and discussed Monday’s scuffle, what it means for the team and more.

What Dipoto loved seeing during the exchange was the emotion of Mariners manager Scott Servais.

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“It’s funny, we’ve experienced this before. I love that fiery version of Scott. It’s fun and I think our players enjoy it,” Dipoto said. “And it wasn’t pleasant having a ball thrown behind our best hitter, but (I liked) the way our team reacted again and in a gritty moment.”

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Dipoto thinks that inning may be a turning point for the Mariners going forward.

”I said this to Scott and to (Mariners vice president of baseball operations) Justin Hollander afterward that perhaps Héctor Neris or the Astros helped us find our personality,” he said.

Dipoto told Salk last week the Mariners were still looking to find their identity as a team. Thanks to that incident in Houston, they may have found it.

“We were talking about our need and our constant search for it. Maybe that was our moment when we found it,” he said. “… There was a feel in that moment that this was a bonding moment for our team and I hope that’s the way it turns out.”

So what exactly has changed for the Mariners over these last few weeks as they’ve gone on a nice little run?

“I don’t know what changed. Our focus. our energy, our just the grit that our team has displayed over the last 12 games has been excellent,” Dipoto said. “And that’s what’s required to win against the good teams in this league.”

In particular, winning in Houston was a big deal, Dipoto said.

“It hasn’t been a good stop for us these last few years,” he said. “I thought that was a good monkey to get off our backs, just winning a series against the Astros in Houston and coming home feeling great about a road trip instead of just good.”

The Mariners’ successful run comes on the heels of dropping two of three at home to the rebuilding Oakland Athletics. Dipoto said that there was a team meeting with coaches and some front office members where they discussed where the team was currently at and what was needed “to get where we needed to be.”

“And frankly since that meeting, it’s gone pretty well,” Dipoto said. “And in that meeting we talked about focusing not on where we were in relation to the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees, but just looking directly in front of us and just start chipping away. In order to catch those teams, we have to cast the team directly in front of us, and there were some bodies to hop in there.”

Thanks to the recent stretch of wins and some losses by other American League teams, the Mariners have made up some decent ground in the Wild Card race.

“We needed to to put ourselves in position where in this homestand playing teams like Boston and Minnesota and the Angels, we have a little bit of our own fate in our hands for the next two weeks where we can really do some damage in these races and put ourselves in a position where the summer can be a lot of fun here at T-Mobile,” Dipoto said. “We’ve earned ourselves that with our play over the last two weeks and now we have to finish the job.”

Listen to the full interview at this link or in the player below.

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