Is the real Julio back in Mariners’ lineup? ‘Best he’s looked all year’

May 28, 2024, 11:26 AM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates a single against the Astros on May 27, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The game log for Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodríguez in May is as up and down as it gets.

Umpire Ángel Hernández, who unsuccessfully sued MLB, retires

He began the month with a three-hit game, but at separate points he’s had two straight games without a hit, then three straight, and last week there was even a four-game hitless drought. But there have also been some promising stretches, including an eight-game hitting streak in the middle of the month, and now a three-game stretch that could end up being pivotal for his season.

It started Saturday when Rodríguez ripped his first home run in almost two weeks. The following day, he hit another – just his fourth of the year – and went 3 for 5, including a tying RBI single (he would also go on to score the go-ahead run) in a 9-5 win over Washington that kept the M’s from being swept by the Nationals. It continued Monday, as Rodríguez went 2 for 4 with a run scored in a 3-2 win over the American League West rival Houston Astros.

All told, Rodríguez has gone 6 for 13 with four runs, five RBIs, four stolen bases and half of his homers this season in the past three games.

Even though the Mariners (29-26) are in first place in the AL West, the offense as a whole has struggled throughout this year. This recent resurgence by Rodríguez is a reminder of how important he is for Seattle’s lineup.

“I don’t think we can say it enough,” Mike Salk said Tuesday on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. “For all of the hand-wringing we’ve had over the offense and specifically over Julio Rodríguez, when he comes out and does what he did over the last two, three games, it’s different. It looks different, it affects the team differently from anybody else, and nothing provides more hope than Julio doing Julio things.”

Salk’s co-host, Brock Huard, built upon that sentiment.

“In Julio, you have the one guy that you just know whose talent can cut through,” Huard said. “A Ty France, a Mitch Garver, a (Jorge) Polanco, a Mitch Haniger at this stage, Dylan Moore – most of those guys may be right there around those league averages (in offensive categories). Someone could get hot for stretches. (Josh) Rojas got hot for a stretch, certainly (Luke) Raley’s been hot for a stretch and far exceeded those numbers. Dylan’s been awesome, so much more than the role player that he’s built to be and paid to be. He’s been way more than that, and it’s why you’re over .500. But the guy that can cut through and be so far above those averages, whose talent when it is on – and on time – is different than everybody else, is Julio.”

More than just a bat

Part of the reason that is the case is because Rodríguez’s value goes beyond just his production at the plate. He’s one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, and his speed on the basepaths can change games, as well. In fact, by going 2 for 2 on attempted steals on both Sunday and Monday, he did something no Mariners player has done in almost 13 years.

“What’s so fun about Julio when he gets going like that is it’s not just the power, it’s the entire package,” Salk said. “… He’s such a complete player in a way that very few great hitters are… and there aren’t many of them who can affect the game in as many ways as he can.”

So is the real Julio back? It will take more than a three-game stretch to make that determination, but his manager made a comment after Sunday’s win that should provide hope that it could be the case.

“Huge game by Julio. Really happy for him. You know, everybody’s happy to see it,” Scott Servais said. “That’s the Julio Rodríguez that we’ve grown to know over the last couple of years and hopefully he can keep that going. That’s the best he’s looked all year.”

Listen to the full conversation from Tuesday’s Brock and Salk just before the last segment in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Catch Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk live from 6-10 a.m. weekdays.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners place Polanco on IL, call up prospect Ryan Bliss for debut
First-place Mariners host AL West rival Astros: Three things to know
Drayer: How Mariners are trying to find more consistency at plate
Morosi: It’s ‘exactly the right time’ for Mariners to go all-in on trades
Drayer: How Seattle Mariners pulling Gilbert points to bigger picture

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