SEATTLE MARINERS

Mariners Takeaways: Julio, offense show encouraging signs

May 12, 2024, 6:25 PM | Updated: May 13, 2024, 8:24 am

Seattle Mariners Julio takeaways A's 2024...

Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners rounds third base after homering against Oakland on Sunday. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners’ run of six consecutive series wins came to an end this past week, when they dropped three of four games to Minnesota on the road. But the Mariners rebounded this weekend, taking two of three from a much-improved Oakland team to improve to 22-19 and reclaim first place atop the AL West.

Watch: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez blasts 2nd HR of season

Even more importantly, Seattle’s offense showed some encouraging signs over the past week – especially in the three-game set against the A’s. The Mariners need their lineup to pick up the slack and complement their elite pitching staff, and the past few games suggest they might be ready to turn a corner.

Here are three observations on the M’s following their series win over Oakland:

Offense showing signs of life

Prior to last Tuesday, the Mariners had scored eight-plus runs in just two of their first 35 games. Since then, they have reached the eight-run mark in three of their past six contests. Seattle scored 10 runs against Minnesota on Tuesday and then eight runs against Oakland on Friday and eight again on Sunday. The caveat, of course, is the Mariners scored only one run apiece on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. But for a lineup that’s struggled to string together runs all season, the past two series were certainly a step in the right direction.

Last week, Seattle manager Scott Servais mentioned that one of his team’s biggest issues at the plate had been fouling off too many good pitches to hit. “When we get fastballs to hit, you’ve gotta get on them,” he said after Wednesday’s loss. The Mariners made major strides in that department against the A’s, consistently capitalizing on fastballs and making hard contact throughout the series. They totaled 21 exit velocities of 100-plus mph in the three-game set, including nine in Sunday’s 8-4 win. Of those 21 triple-digit exit velocities, 13 came off fastballs. Even when they got three-hit in Saturday’s 8-1 loss – a game filled with bad batted-ball luck – they still posted seven 100-plus mph exit velocities.

“A lot of things coming together offensively in this series,” Servais said after Sunday’s win. “We had a couple of really good games.”

Julio ready to turn the corner?

Over the first quarter of the season, the most glaring thing missing from the Mariners’ lineup was Julio Rodríguez’s power production. The 23-year-old superstar center fielder mashed a combined 60 home runs the past two seasons during a sensational start to his major league career, but hasn’t been able to replicate that success this year. Through Saturday, he’d mustered just one homer and four doubles through 40 games.

But with two big swings Sunday, Rodríguez reminded the baseball world what he’s capable of. In the second inning, Rodríguez broke his home-run drought with a 409-foot shot to center field that rocketed off his bat at 109 mph. He then came within inches of another homer in his next at-bat, launching a fifth-inning double off the top of the wall in left-center field. After just five extra-base hits in his first 40 games, he suddenly had two in back-to-back trips to the plate.

However, if Rodríguez happens to be turning a corner, it actually began Saturday. The box score that night shows an 0-for-4 next to Rodríguez’s name, but it was a classic case of bad baseball luck. He recorded three 100-plus mph exit velocities in those four at-bats, including a scorching 110 mph line drive up the middle that Oakland pitcher Joey Estes somehow managed to deflect. In all, Rodríguez logged triple-digit exit velocities in six of his seven at-bats between Saturday and Sunday.

“His timing just looks so much better,” Servais said. “And we saw that today. So hopefully that kind of gets him jump-started a little bit. If he gets going like he can, our offense just looks so much different.”

Bullpen depth will continue to be tested

When the Mariners traded for hard-throwing reliever Gregory Santos in February, the hope was that Santos would team with talented relievers Matt Brash and Andrés Muñoz to form an elite trio of high-leverage arms in Seattle’s bullpen.

That won’t happen this season. Brash, who had been sidelined with arm issues since spring training, underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday and will be out for 12 months. Santos, who suffered a lat strain in spring training, had a recent setback in his rehab process and now isn’t expected to be available until July. In addition, reliever Taylor Saucedo landed on the 15-day injured list after hyperextending his knee while covering first base last Tuesday.

The absence of Brash and Santos – and now Saucedo for at least a little while – has significantly tested the depth of Seattle’s bullpen. So far, the group has been more than up to the task. The Mariners entered Sunday ranked fifth in the majors in bullpen ERA (3.13) and fourth in bullpen WHIP (1.11), according to Fangraphs. Muñoz has been the anchor, recording five saves while logging a 1.88 ERA and 31.6% strikeout rate. But once again, Seattle is getting solid work from its more unheralded arms.

The Mariners have developed a reputation in recent years for acquiring lesser-known relievers and transforming them into valuable bullpen pieces. That’s been on display again through the likes of Trent Thornton, Austin Voth and Gabe Speier. Thornton, acquired in a trade with Toronto last July, has a 2.12 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 17 innings this season. Voth, a January free-agent signing, has a 2.81 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 16 innings. Speier, who Seattle claimed off waivers following the 2022 season, has a 32.7% strikeout rate after a breakout campaign last year.

In the face of injuries, the Mariners’ bullpen depth has shined. Given the latest injury news with Brash and Santos, Seattle needs that trend to continue.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Watch: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez blasts 2nd HR of season
Mariners notebook: Bryce Miller has flipped the script on lefties
Mariners’ Bryan Woo expected to make next start after early exit
Mariners injury update: Matt Brash has Tommy John surgery
Insider: Mariners need to add bats, will have to make ‘painful’ trade

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