KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mariners? Do you want to build a snowman?
It doesn’t have to be a snowman.
But “hanging an eight-spot” in an inning as the baseball folks say, can be pretty fun.
Scoring eight runs in a game is difficult and uncommon, but rolling up eight runs in an inning? Well, that shouldn’t be expected. The last time they scored eight or more runs in an inning was Sept. 6, 2016 against the Angels. And yet with what the 2019 Mariners have done to opposing pitchers in the first 11 games, an eight-run inning won’t leave you frozen in disbelief.
So on a night when their starting pitcher Felix Hernandez made it just one inning, giving up two runs to the first three batters he faced before exiting the game with “virus-like symptoms,” the Mariners – the hottest team in baseball – shrugged off the shortened start and early deficit to hit, walk and homer their way to a 13-5 rout of the Royals.
Seattle tallied 15 hits, bashed five home runs, worked four walks and scored in double-digits for the second consecutive game and fourth time this season. Seattle has scored five or more runs in all but one of its games this season while homering in all 12 games and pushing its American League-leading home run total to 32. The 32 homers in 12 games to start a season is the most by any team in MLB history, eclipsing the 31 homers in 12 games hit by 2000 Cardinals. Seattle has scored 98 runs in 12 games for an 8.2 runs per game average.
“It’s pretty awesome to watch,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Wow, what an offensive roll we are on right now. Guys just don’t let up.”
The bulk of the offensive explosion came from an eight-run top of the sixth that saw 12 batters come to the plate, six hits, including two homers, two walks and a hit batter while lasting almost 30 minutes.
“It feels like we have one of those innings every game,” said utility player Dylan Moore, who had two hits, including his first career homer in a spot start at shortstop. “Not scoring eight runs, but one of those innings where we just pound these guys and they can’t get an out to save their lives. And we just keep adding runs and adding runs and having quality at-bat after quality at-bat.”
How do you roll up eight runs in a frame?
“It’s like you’re pounding their pitchers into submission where it gets to the point where whack (pounding his first on the desk) it’s done,” Servais said. “It wasn’t like there were cheap hits either.”
Seattle entered the sixth having tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth on a grinding two-out, two-run single from Domingo Santana.
“Such a good at-bat,” Servais said.
But that was just an appetizer.
Edwin Encarnacion started off the sixth by ambushing the first pitch from right-hander Homer Bailey. It produced a scalding line drive over the wall in left-center for a solo homer to give Seattle a 5-4 lead that would only grow in the inning.
Daniel Vogelbach, who homered earlier in the game, drew his first of three walks on the night. Ryon Healy followed with a single and one out later Moore was hit with a pitch to load the bases. And that’s when the Mariners cranked it up. Dee Gordon dumped a run-scoring single to left off left-hander Tim Hill, pushing the lead to two runs. Mitch Haniger sliced a run-scoring single to right off right-hander Kevin McCarthy to make it 7-4. Santana continued to produce in RBI situations, pulling a double into left field to score two more runs to make it 9-4. With the four-RBI night, Santana has 19 on the season – the most in the American League.
The run-scoring party culminated with Encarnacion smashing his second homer of the inning — a three-run shot deep into the left-field seats. It was the second time in his career he’d hit two home runs in an inning. He became the first Mariner to accomplish the feat since Mike Cameron and Bret Boone both did it in the first inning against the White Sox back on May 2, 2002. Cameron hit four homers in that game.
“I’ve got my timing right in the last week,” Encarnacion said “When I have my timing right, I have good results at the plate.”
That eight-run inning allowed Servais to piece together the rest of the game with a bullpen that hasn’t gained a high level of trust yet this early in the season. Chasen Bradford allowed two runs in two innings of work after replacing Hernandez. It was Roenis Elias who provided the stabilizing force. He tossed three shutout innings after Bradford, allowing the Mariners to rally. Right-hander Connor Sadzeck followed with two shutout innings, while Cory Gearrin had an uneven ninth inning that didn’t matter given the run cushion.
Hernandez said postgame that he thought he ate something that gave him stomach discomfort starting on Sunday evening. He threw up through the night and into the morning, but still wanted to make the start. After falling awkwardly while avoiding being hit by a comebacker, he felt dizzy while trying to get up. He talked with Servais and an athletic trainer on the mound, asking to finish the inning. He was able to get through it, allowing two runs in the frame.