Julio Rodríguez, amazing in Game 1, is why you can’t count Mariners out

Oct 13, 2022, 12:02 AM
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Julio Rodríguez yells after his triple against the Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Lost amid the shock and awe of Yordan Alvarez’s walk-off homer off Robbie Ray in Game 1 in the American League Division Series was the most impressive performance by the Mariners’ offense in the postseason yet.

ESPN’s Passan: Why Mariners still have a shot vs Astros in ALDS

It sure didn’t look like the moment was too big for the Mariners’ hitters, who manufactured a run in the first inning against presumptive 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, then struck for five more over the next three innings (plus an extra insurance run against Houston’s bullpen in the seventh).

While it proved to not be enough due to the Mariners’ own bullpen issues, it was a good sign nonetheless for a team that has struggled more at the plate than in any other facet of the game this year.

Carlos Santana, who had a pair of big knocks in the Wild Card series-clinching win over the Blue Jays last weekend, was the only player in the M’s batting order Tuesday who didn’t have a hit. Ty France looked very much his All-Star self by going 3 for 5 with a double and two RBIs, Jarred Kelenic and Eugenio Suárez each had multi-hit games, and Suárez and J.P. Crawford both went deep.

The Mariners sent a message, albeit one that was overshadowed by the final pitch of the game, that they weren’t going to be bullied around by the pitching staff of an Astros team that has reached the ALCS five seasons in a row. And of all the players in the lineup, the one who probably sent that message the most clearly was leadoff man Julio Rodríguez. He had his best showing yet in the postseason, and it’s no coincidence Seattle’s offense looked as formidable as ever on the same day.

After drawing a walk and scoring to open the game, Rodríguez let his bat – and legs – do the talking in his next two plate appearances. First was a double he smoked at 113.3 mph to the right-center gap to plate a pair of M’s runners.

Then he roped a triple to the left-center gap where he showed off his blazing speed and displayed some fire after sliding in safely.

Those two hits from the 21-year-old budding superstar amazed ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan, as he shared Wednesday during his weekly conversation with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

“I’m sorry, when I see somebody in his first postseason, against Justin Verlander, peppering the ball all over the field,” Passan said, “and Julio is taking him to right-center in one at-bat and Julio is taking him to left-center in another at-bat? And in that first at-bat, he’s driving in runs, and in that second at-bat he’s sliding into third base because he’s too fast for anyone to catch – we’ve talked about it all year, I’m not telling you guys anything that you don’t know. He is not a dude, he is the dude.”

Rodríguez has three hits and two walks in the Mariners’ three playoff games thus far, and pretty amazingly has scored all five times he’s reached base. And regardless if the Mariners can even the series in Thursday’s Game 2 before it shifts to Seattle on Saturday, Passan expects a big eruption for the franchise cornerstone when it plays its first home playoff game in 21 years.

“If it’s 1-1 when we go to T-Mobile, that place is going to be bonkers. If it’s 0-2 when we go to T-Mobile, that place is going to be bonkers,” he said. “And when lineups are introduced, and when Julio Rodríguez steps to the plate especially in the bottom of the first – how about that, bottom of the first, playoff game? Like, this is something that’s novel to an entire generation. You’re going to be able to look down from your seat, to look on from your television at a 21 year old who you can argue pretty rationally right now is one of the 10 best players in baseball.”

You can listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Passan in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Coverage of Game 2 of the ALDS between the Mariners and Astros will be carried live Thursday on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the flagship station of the Mariners Radio Network, which is the only way to hear the postseason games called by M’s announcers Rick Rizzs, Aaron Goldsmith and Dave Sims and analyst Mike Blowers. The pregame show hosted by Seattle Sports Mariners insider Shannon Drayer begins at 11:30 a.m., with first pitch set for 12:37 p.m.

For details on how to stream the broadcast on your mobile device or computer, click here.

More Mariners ALDS coverage from Seattle Sports

Salk: Who gets blame for Mariners’ Game 1 collapse? It’s complicated
K.J. Wright: Mariners’ Game 1 could be ‘good’ loss like 2012 Seahawks had
ESPN’s Passan: Why Mariners still have a shot vs Astros in ALDS
The keys to Mariners moving on from devastating Game 1 loss
Mariners Reaction: Wyman & Bob on ALDS Game 1 loss, Ray decision

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Julio Rodríguez, amazing in Game 1, is why you can’t count Mariners out