How big is Mariners’ 1st walk-off, success on homestand?

May 29, 2023, 11:19 AM | Updated: 11:30 am

Seattle Mariners Eugenio Suárez Teoscar Hernández...

Mariners teammates Eugenio Suárez and Teoscar Hernández after a win on May 28, 2023. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners go into the final series of their 10-game homestand, a tough three-game set against the 32-23 New York Yankees, with something very important: momentum.

Sunday: Mariners beat Pirates 6-3, win series on HR by Suárez

Seattle enters Monday’s 6:40 p.m. opener against the Yanks with a 28-25 record, marking the first time this season they’ve been three games over .500, and they did so in dramatic fashion with Eugenio Suárez delivering a walk-off blast in the 10th inning of Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Pirates that clinched a big series win.

With that victory over Pittsburgh, the M’s are now 6-1 on the homestand after taking two of three from the Pirates and sweeping four games against the Oakland Athletics .

What exactly does Seattle’s walk-off victory mean in the big picture? Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports broke it down when she joined guest hosts Maura Dooley and Mike Lefko on Monday morning for a Memorial Day edition of Brock and Salk. Let’s take a closer look at what Shannon had to say.

Good for Geno

The way things were shaping up on Sunday, it seemed like it was going to be a ho-hum win in the series finale against Pittsburgh with the M’s taking a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning. Instead, it took extra innings for the game to be settled in what turned out to be vintage Seattle Mariners fashion.

After Seattle failed to score a go-ahead run in both the eighth and ninth innings, M’s reliever and local product Tayler Saucedo got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th, and in the bottom half of the frame, slugging third baseman Eugenio Suárez crushed an 85 mph slider from Robert Stephenson (his former teammate with the Cincinnati Reds) for a three-run, walk-off homer.

Drayer explained why that home run, the sixth of the season for Suárez, could mean a lot for him going forward.

“He’s kind of having a little bit of an odd season,” she told Dooley and Lefko. “He hasn’t had the home runs that he’s had before. He, at times, has looked better on-base-wise at the plate, he’s taking more walks than he sometimes has in the past, so he’s contributing without doing it the way that he’s kind of accustomed to.”

That’s great, right?

“That’s actually bothered him a little bit,” Drayer continued.

Entering Monday, Suárez owns a .219/.325/.337 slash line for a .662 OPS this season. In 2022, he had a .791 OPS, and he’s posted a slugging percentage of no worse than .428 in a season since 2017, meaning his current .325 mark is over 100 points below his lowest over that time period. Suárez also showed a knack for timely hits in the late innings last season, his first with Seattle, but had struggled to come through with the game on the line this year until Sunday.

“He wants to be the guy,” Drayer said. “The home run is a part of his game – it’s not that he goes out and tries to hit them, but when everything is going right, the home runs happen. But he also liked what he was at the end of last year, the guy that really came through in the big situation, so that kind of bothered him when he wasn’t able to do that (earlier this season). Now he’s had a couple of games, particularly on the last road trip and then what we saw last night, where you’re starting to see that a little bit more.

“I think for Suárez himself, that’s great because that’s who he wants to be. But also for those particularly who were around last year, that was a guy that they could lean on and would get hot for stretches and would be a real threat at the plate. So I think that kind of thing is big.”

Have the 2023 Seattle Mariners found their identity?

Not only did Sunday mark the first walk-off homer of the year for Suárez, but it was the first walk-off victory of any kind for the Mariners in 2023. Dramatic wins in general haven’t come nearly as often for Seattle this season, as they currently have a 6-12 record in one-run games and are 3-5 when they go to extra innings.

What does Sunday’s win do for the Seattle Mariners?

“I think it does a lot,” Drayer said. “We’ve kind of talked about how they didn’t have an extra inning win for a long time, they weren’t doing as well in the one-run games as they were doing last year, and to go this deep in the season and not have a walk-off victory, that probably was something that I think they would feel a little bit better if they saw, too.”

Perhaps just as big is what they’ve done since returning home at the start of last week from a long road trip, beginning with the four-game sweep of the admittedly lowly Oakland A’s, who at 10-45 this year are on pace for an historically awful season.

“(Sunday’s win was) just really capping off what was a very good week for them at home,” Drayer said of the Mariners. “I don’t care that it was the A’s that they swept – those wins are important when you’re trying to grab some momentum when it’s May and some guys are still trying to get their legs under them a little bit. So the way that I’ve termed it all over the last couple of days is these have been very encouraging – and perhaps even in some aspects reassuring – wins because you’re starting to see them do the things that you expected them to do.”

You can listen to Drayer’s full conversation with Dooley and Lefko in the third segment of the podcast below.

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