BUMP AND STACY

Mariners’ Scott Servais: 3 keys to Seattle’s 5 straight series wins

Jul 5, 2022, 4:31 PM | Updated: 5:05 pm
Mariners Carlos Santana Eugenio Suárez...
Eugenio Suárez and Carlos Santana of the Seattle Mariners fist bump during a July 1 game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners wrapped up a quick two-game sweep of the Padres in San Diego on Tuesday afternoon, marking a fifth straight series victory and bringing them a win away from getting back to .500. How has Seattle (41-42) made that happen after a dismal May left them as many as nine games under .500 at one point?

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Prior to Tuesday’s game, Mariners manager Scott Servais joined The Dugout on Seattle Sports for his weekly conversation with Michael Bumpus and Stacy Rost, providing a view into what’s been going right for the M’s. By the time this edition of The Scott Servais Show commenced, there were a few points he specifically highlighted that stood out as keys for Seattle as of late. Here’s a look at those keys.

New veteran additions

First up, Servais was sure to give credit to a pair of experienced players that recently joined the Mariners clubhouse: first baseman Carlos Santana and outfielder Justin Upton.

Santana, 36, is in his 13th MLB season and came over in a trade last week from the Kansas City Royals after the Mariners placed Ty France on the injured list, while the 34-year-old Upton is in his 16th season after joining the M’s as an in-season free agency signing. Both have had big moments for the M’s recently – Santana reached base all five times he came to the plate in a win Monday while Upton hit a pinch-hit, game-tying solo home run in the eighth inning of a 2-1 win over the A’s on Saturday – but Servais said they carry just as much value off the field.

“We’ve had some additions – certainly, Carlos Santana with Ty France being out has been huge, and Carlos had a great ballgame yesterday,” Servais said. “It’s really added a lot in our clubhouse, and I know I’ve mentioned before, as well, Justin Upton. Bringing those two veteran guys in is something that has really helped, and it may not show up on the field every day but their contributions in the clubhouse, talking to our young players, engaging in our meetings and our prep stuff has been really beneficial to our group. We’ve played better since they’ve showed up.”

One player who has really taken off lately is rookie Julio Rodríguez, who has won back-to-back American League Rookie of the Month awards and was named AL Player of the Week on Tuesday. Servais pointed to Santana’s relationship with the 21-year-old phenom as a positive.

“He’s very close with Carlos Santana. He’s known Carlos for a long time, they work out together in the offseason, they have the same agent, so bringing Carlos over here, it just helps. There’s a veteran guy that, you know, Julio’s got questions about what’s going on or what to do or what not to do – it’s so easy when you can go to a teammate and certainly one you already have a relationship with.”

The Mariners’ stellar pitching

The Mariners have won every single one of their last 19 games in which they’ve scored at least four runs, and that’s a stat about pitching, not offense. Considering that, it’s pretty much needless to say that Servais is happy with both the starting rotation and bullpen.

“The underlying factor of all this has been our pitching,” he said. “Our starting pitching has just been fantastic and the bullpen guys picking those starters up, that’s really what’s allowed us to play better baseball here over the last few weeks.”

Chris Flexen was highlighted after shutting down the Padres on Monday with 6 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball with eight strikeouts.

“I think it was maybe the best outing that he’s had of the year for us,” Servais said. “I thought his stuff was really crisp, he was ahead in the count for most of the day, he got the big outs he needed to, and we finally scored him some runs which wasn’t happening early in the year. But a ton of credit to Chris. How it was going for him earlier in the year, he wasn’t throwing the ball bad but he wasn’t happy with it, he didn’t think his stuff was crisp enough, and he made some adjustments in between starts and what he’s working on, just trying to get 1% better. I thought his stuff picked up yesterday. I thought the fastball had more life, the breaking pitches were sharper, had later break to them, all the things you’re looking for so credit to him.

“Our guys continue to focus on just getting better and our coaches are hammering that message every day. No matter if you’re going good, if you’re struggling, just focus on getting a little bit better and Chris certainly has.”

We’ll have a closer look at the Mariners’ pitching on Wednesday on SeattleSports.com from M’s pitching coach Pete Woodworth’s conversation with Mike Lefko and Ryan Rowland-Smith on Tuesday’s edition of The Mike Salk Show. You can listen to that interview at this link.

It’s all coming together

After the Mariners stumbled in May, general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said on June 2 to Seattle Sports that the M’s were “still trying to find their personality.” Based on their results since (20-13) and Servais’ comments on Tuesday, it appears they’ve solved that riddle.

“This group is really starting to come together,” he said. “You feel it in the dugout, you feel it in the clubhouse, on the airplane, on the bus. It’s a group that it’s taken a little while – you know, we had a rough May (but) we started playing better in June.”

The Mariners have done so while weathering injuries to key players including France, Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis, as well as suspensions stemming from their brawl with the Angels on June 26. Servais pointed to players understanding that they don’t need to do more than they’re being asked as an important development.

“I think when things like this happen, it’s better for one person not to think ‘I have to be the guy,'” he said about the Mariners’ roster issues. “It’s more of a team – ‘OK, we need to as a group step up,’ and just be really good at what you’re supposed to be able to do I guess is the easiest way to put it. So whatever your job is – if you’re the starting pitcher, I have to get deep in the ballgame today. If I’m a reliever and there’s a couple guys on, this is a key point in the game, I’ve got to get the first guy out. Whatever your job is. If it’s leading off a inning, I gotta get a rally going here, I need to have a good at-bat. The guy’s in scoring position, how do I get this ball in play to make something happen? So really focus on the little things, and if you do that it may add up to being ultimately what you’re shooting for, (which) is just winning a ballgame. That’s what we’re focused on. Win today’s game – do whatever it takes to win today’s game, and then once we get that done we move on to the next one.”

Listen to the full Scott Servais Show in the player below or at this link.

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