Drayer’s Notebook: The role players key to Mariners’ surge

Aug 7, 2023, 10:57 AM

Seattle Mariners Dylan Moore...

Dylan Moore of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his home run with Julio Rodríguez on Aug. 4, 2023. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Scott Servais has long been comfortable writing both catchers’ names into the Seattle Mariners’ lineup, but we have been seeing it more and more the past few weeks.

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“Cal’s been in there, he’s been good,” the M’s manager said Sunday morning in Anaheim of usual starting backstop Cal Raleigh. “He’s driving the ball.”

Tom Murphy has also been good – over the last 30 days, he has a .341/.362/.614 line for a .976 OPS and 169 wRC+ in 47 plate appearances. As a result, he has gained more playing time.

“I said two weeks ago there would be a more even split because Murphy has been playing well,” Servais said. “He’s earned it. Not just at the plate, that’s really exciting what he is doing there, but behind the plate. The experience and him understanding situations has really helped us.”

Servais has also appreciated the work of Raleigh.

“I thought Cal Raleigh did a really nice job with our entire staff today,” he said after a 3-2 win over the Angels in 10 innings Sunday that clinched a four-game series sweep. “There’s guys that are in different spots facing pockets of hitters they typically don’t face. They lean on the catcher hard.”

One moment in particular stood out.

In the bottom of the eighth inning with the game tied at 2 apiece, Mariners reliever Justin Topa faced American League MVP favorite Shohei Ohtani with one out and the bases empty. Down 3-1 in the count, as Topa came set, he looked up to see his catcher sprinting out to the mound. While not wanting to give away what he said to his pitcher, Raleigh said that he felt Topa could use a pause there. He also had noticed something. What that was he wouldn’t say, but it appears a change of pitch was suggested and accepted by Topa.

Play resumed, and Ohtani grounded out to second baseman Josh Rojas, who was playing close to first base. As the play was being made, Topa pointed emphatically to Raleigh.

Both catchers will be used going forward, and that should benefit not just the team but the catchers themselves.

“I hope it keeps them fresher as we go down the stretch,” said Servais, himself a former MLB catcher. “Not just those two but all the guys. I think our roster is built better to handle that than it was two weeks ago.”

On that note…

More from Moore

It took a little while coming off injury and with no spring training, but Dylan Moore seems to have come around. After getting an opportunity to get his timing against big league pitching, he is now 10 for 26 with three doubles and four home runs in his last 10 games.

Originally slated to be a full platoon partner at second base this season while spelling shortstop J.P. Crawford on a more regular basis than past years, that role has since changed. There is plenty of room for Moore according to Servais, however, who said pregame that the 31-year-old utility player has more than come back.

“D-Mo looks better than he ever has,” Servais said. “He is in a different area code than he ever has been. He’s handling the ball at the top of the strike zone best we have ever seen. It has always been an issue for him. If you can start handling the ball at the top of the strike zone, you now can start looking for the ball up and you can stay off the ball down. He’s been really good. I love the way he’s playing now.”

Sunday morning share

Sundays are always a little different for the Mariners as there is no batting practice with the quick turnaround. A neat sight in the corner of the visitor’s clubhouse in Anaheim illustrated the closeness of this team.

Ty France – in his “spa day” (off day) uniform of Mariners tank and shorts and a backwards cap – and J.P. Crawford were sitting next to each other at their lockers, clearly relaxed, semi-sprawled out on their folding chairs, talking. The two Southern California natives are good friends, in the tradition of any number of good friend/teammate combos that have been seen in this clubhouse through the years. France talked about this in his interview that day for the Mariners Radio Network pregame show on Seattle Sports.

“We’ve actually leaned on each other a lot,” he said. “We are both from the same area growing up, playing against each other, now we are fortunate enough to be on the same team. He kind of showed me the ropes when I got over here and how things go. For both of us to be able to grow in our careers the way we have, I am very grateful to not only call him a teammate but a very good friend.”

There is one place, however, where France does not want to run into Crawford: on the pickleball court. What, you ask? Crawford bought a house in the area last year and has been known to host team gatherings, and recently it was revealed that his new abode has a pickleball court.

“He’s supposedly very good,” France said. “He had some people over a couple of homestands ago and he just watched. He didn’t want to embarrass any of us, but I’m sure it’s coming.”

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Seattle Mariners Notebook: Brash and Muñoz step up in bullpen
Rookie Dominic Canzone talks joining the Mariners, role going forward
Dipoto details why Seattle Mariners ‘love’ players from D-backs trade
Morosi: How Mariners stack up against other wild card contenders

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