ARLINGTON, Texas – One of the best parts about Kyle Seager being in a career-worst slump was that nobody seemed to realize it.
Seager’s offensive numbers were still some of the Mariners’ best, his manager had no idea about the downturn and even the player himself was oblivious to it all. It wasn’t until after his two-run, eighth-inning homer and a solo shot in the ninth by Justin Smoak sealed a 3-1 comeback win Friday over the Texas Rangers that Seager finally grasped the extent of his slide.
“I didn’t know until the postgame interview (on television) that it was 0 for 21, so that was good to hear,’’ Seager quipped with a grin. “It was one of those things where I kind of realized that I hadn’t gotten a hit in a while and it’s just one of those things that you go through. You go through the ups and downs and sometimes you can take bad swings and get hits and other times you’ll feel good and not get hits.
“For me, in this case, the past couple of days I’ve started to feel a little bit better.’’
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The Mariners had been shut down on two hits by left-hander Derek Holland for seven innings and trailed 1-0 when Neal Cotts came on to work the eighth. That’s when Nick Franklin – in a slump of his own – drew a one-out walk. Seager followed by jacking a ball just beyond the right-field wall.
A crowd of 37,596 at Rangers Ballpark looked on stunned as leaping right fielder Alex Rios failed to come up with the ball. Among those letting out a cheer in the visitors’ dugout was Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6).
“I was yelling, ‘Get over that fence’,’’ Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki.
Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush got the Mariners out of an eighth-inning jam and Danny Farquhar closed out a perfect ninth after suffering his first blown save two nights before.
Iwakuma had held the Rangers to a lone run on four hits while striking out eight in his seven innings. But things looked grim with five outs to go and the Mariners on the verge of becoming the first team ever shut out three times in one season at this ballpark.
That is, until Seager, batting .444 lifetime at this park and riding a 12-game hitting streak here, jumped on the 0-2 pitch from Cotts.
“I don’t know necessarily what the right answer is,” Seager said of his hitting success here. “I mean, that’s a good pitching staff, so it’s not like that’s the case. I think it’s just one of those things where the couple of times we’ve come here before, I’ve made a few adjustments and hopefully gotten into a little rhythm.”
Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson said he wishes all players handled slumps just like Seager.
“We knew he was struggling a little bit, but I just found out he was 0 for his last 21,” Thompson said. “We were just talking about it in here. You’d never know it the way that he handles and carries himself, whether he’s 10 for 20 or 0 for 21. That’s the sign of a pro right there. He’s a battler and that’s why he’s in there in the third (spot).”
Thompson had seen Iwakuma escape some jams the first two innings, then yield a run on an A.J. Pierzynski single in the fourth. But Pierzynski was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a double and over-sliding second base.
Rios grounded out with a runner on third and the Rangers never got close against Iwakuma again. Iwakuma said the 87-degree gametime heat wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it might be and he wanted to get through the seventh frame – something he’d failed to do twice previously against Texas.
With the Mariners up 2-1 in the eighth, the Rangers put two on with none out against reliever Oliver Perez. Medina came on and a bunt moved both runners ahead one base.
But Medina then got the dangerous Ian Kinsler to swing through a full-count fastball for the second out. Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked to load the bases and Furbush came on and got Pierzynski out to end the inning.
Furbush had thrown a bunch of sliders to Pierzynski before getting him to pop out softly to Seager behind third base on a fastball. The Mariners have been using Furbush in a bunch of high-pressure situations lately and he’s delivered.
Smoak homered to right field off Tanner Scheppers in the ninth to give Farquhar some breathing room. Farquhar admitted the insurance helped him stay more aggressive with hitters in trying to put his blown save behind him as quickly as possible.
“It was a little hard for me to sleep that night, giving up the game the way I did,” he said. “But, to be honest with you, I’m pretty good at having a short memory.”
The best way to bust out of slumps, be they on the mound or at the plate.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners.