The Mariners’ feel-good story of spring gave his team some things to feel really good about in Seattle’s 4-3, extra-innings victory over the Twins on Saturday.
Taylor Trammell hit a 371-foot blast off Minnesota’s Michael Pineda for his first major-league home run in the third inning at Target Field, a promising sign for the rookie outfielder after an up-and-down first week with the Mariners.
In the 10th inning, Trammell started off the extra frame at second base and eventually scored the winning run on Mitch Haniger’s sacrifice fly to left field.
The Mariners celebrated Trammell’s first homer in the clubhouse after the game.
“It was great,” Trammell said in a virtual news conference. “Just to hear (teammates) say, ‘Hey, congratulations, we’re proud of you,’ it means a lot to me because I did grow up watching some of these guys. So to hear them say that meant a lot to me. It was pretty special.”
The 23-year-old Trammell, acquired in a trade from San Diego last summer, was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of spring training, winning the starting left-field job by slashing .302/.388/.628 with five doubles, three homers and 11 RBI in Cactus League play. (He is playing center field as Kyle Lewis recovers from a knee injury).
He cooled considerably in his first week in the majors, posting just two hits in his first six games and striking out 13 times in 25 plate appearances.
He didn’t waste much time contributing Saturday. On a 1-0 count, Trammell pulled a floated 88-mph changeup from Pineda over the wall in right field, giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Trammell pointed to the sky as he crossed home plate, and was greeted with emphatic high-fives in the visitors’ dugout.
“I knew I hit it pretty good, but … I thought it was going to hit off the wall because it’s pretty tall out there,” Trammell said. “It was special. I had a blast, especially running around the bases. It was really awesome, just because I heard the boos and I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, we’re good now. This is actually really cool.’ ”
Three batters later, Haniger belted a hanging slider from Pineda 407 feet to the second deck in the left, extending Seattle’s lead to 2-0. It was Haniger’s second homer of the season.
With the score tied 2-2, Kyle Seager came through with a two-out single to score J.P. Crawford from second in the eighth inning, giving the Mariners a 3-2 lead.
Crawford had reached base on a leadoff infield single off Alex Colome and then stole second. Colome appeared like he might get out of the inning after striking out Haniger, getting Ty France to ground out and then getting two strikes on Seager. But Seager lined a changeup for a solid single to center, allowing Crawford to score easily.
The Twins tied the score in the bottom of the eighth against Mariners reliever Rafael Montero, who walked Nelson Cruz, grazed Byron Buxton’s jersey with a riding fastball and then threw a wild pitch to allow the tying run to score.
The best development of the day for the Mariners might have been a second consecutive quality start from Yusei Kikuchi. The left-hander scattered five hits over six innings, with two walks and six strikeouts.
This was already going to be an important season for Kikuchi entering his third major-league season, and his importance to the M’s rotation has heightened with James Paxton (elbow) expected to be sidelined for an extended period.
“Kikuchi was outstanding again,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said, adding: “He feels really good about where he’s at, the adjustments he’s made and the growth he’s made. Not just with his pitches but (also) his approach, his attitude when he’s out there. I like it. He’s more animated, he’s fired up, you see more of his personality starting to come out — that’s a good thing. That shows me he’s comfortable, he feels good about where he’s at both physically and mentally. Love to see it.
“We’re going to need many, many more outings like that out of him. He’s got that type of ability and it’s great to see it playing out.”
Kikuchi’s only blemish was Cruz’s two-run home run — an opposite-field shot on an outside breaking pitch — in the third inning. It was the fourth homer of the season for the 40-year-old Cruz.
“I just went in with an aggressive mindset and just trusted my stuff, and I thought I was able to do that from the beginning of the game until the very end,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter. “So I was happy with that.”
Trammell, under the new extra-innings rule, opened the 10th as the runner at second base. He moved to third on Braden Bishop’s perfectly placed bunt single, and scored easily after Haniger battled back from an 0-2 count to fly out to left field.
Keynan Middleton shut the door on the Twins in the bottom of the 10th, retiring Buxton on a hard ground out to Crawford for the final out and stranding the extra-innings runner at second base. It was Middleton’s first save with the Mariners.
“Our group’s coming together pretty nicely,” Servais said, “and wins like today’s really help.”
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