If Jake Fraley doesn’t have a commercial deal with eye drops in the next week or two, then the marketing folks for Clear Eyes or Visine or Nu Eyes, well, they aren’t doing their jobs properly.
After dealing with something in his right eye that cost him a strike when he asked for a timeout to remove it and didn’t get it, making him so uncomfortable at the plate that it required athletic trainer Taylor Bennett to put drops in his eye, Fraley launched his first career homer — a three-run blast to deep right-center in fourth inning off Griffin Canning — that propelled the Mariners to a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night in Anaheim, California.
“I don’t know what it was,” Fraley said of the impediment in his eye. “All of the sudden I saw like two of Canning as a I blinked. I said, ‘time’ and then stuck my hand up, assuming he didn’t hear me. And then I put up my hand up, and he didn’t give it to me. And then he threw a strike by me and I was like, ‘jeez.’ “
After taking a few moments to get his vision right, Bennett and manager Scott Servais came on the field with the eye drops.
“I just tried to stay in the moment,” Fraley said of his approach. “You’ve got adrenaline going, and you want to make something happen. Honestly, I feel like the staying composed part was the easy part and getting the thing out of my eye was the hard part.”
Given the superstitious nature of baseball players, it’s surprising the rest of the Mariners weren’t asking for eye drops before or during their at-bats after Fraley’s homer.
“They were really pumped up for Taylor the trainer to go out, to get all the TV time and then put the Nu Eyes in there,” Servais said. “Everybody went to right to him after the home run, saying, ‘Give me some eye drops.’ ”
Even Fraley wasn’t immune to that thinking.
“I told Taylor that we need to have eye drops after every at-bat,” he said. “He needed to make it happen.”
Fraley’s homer turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead that Seattle only added upon in the later innings.
Realistically, Fraley’s future commercial endeavors with eye drops could also be predicated on his ability to discern balls and strikes and take a walk. Besides his homer, he also took two walks in the game, giving him 15 for the season. Throw in his four hits, and Fraley has a .556 on-base percentage.
“The majority of people think with two strikes, ‘Expand the zone and with anything close, foul it off,’ when in reality should be with two strikes to shrink the zone,” Fraley said. “Because more times than not, especially in the big leagues, the majority of pitches in two strikes or balls are out of the zone. When you have that concept of shrinking the zone with the two strikes, and obviously that’s dictated based on who you’re facing, what they do, whether they are a strike thrower or throw a majority of balls.”
Seattle got a solid start from Justus Sheffield, who pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to improve to 5-4. The two runs came on a pair of solo homers. Justin Upton smoked a deep shot to center for a 1-0 lead to start the second. After Sheffield struck out Juan Lagares, Jared Walsh clubbed an even harder homer to right-center. The ball had a 113-mph exit velocity.
Down 2-0, the Mariners answered with a run in the top of third on a Mitch Haniger infield single.
Sheffield seemed destined for a shortened start. The Angels loaded the bases in the third inning with one out, but he managed to wiggle out of it without allowing a run, getting Lagares to fly out to shallow right field and getting Walsh to ground out to end the inning.
Once Fraley gave the Mariners a lead, Sheffield was given a reprieve and a reset to the start. He didn’t waste it.
He posted a scoreless inning in the fourth that included striking out Shohei Ohtani for the third time in the game, with a pair of runners on base. Sheffield worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning and retired the first two batters of the sixth.
“It makes you more aggressive,” Sheffield said. “I just wanted to go out there and keep them at where they were.”
But after walking Max Stassi, Servais went to the bullpen, much to Sheffield’s displeasure.
“It is what it is,” Sheffield said. “Maybe a year from now or so, I’ll earn my keep to stay out there. But I understand. I was at 100-some pitches, too. There were some stressful things in there, too. But as a competitor, I always want to stay out there.”
J.T. Chargois retired David Fletcher to end the sixth and keep Sheffield in line for the win.
The Mariners picked up a run in the sixth on J.P. Crawford’s RBI double to left-center.
Kyle Seager, who came into the game with a .150/.190/.250 slash line over his past 10 games, clubbed a solo homer off lefty Alex Claudio that made it 6-2.
The Mariners’ bullpen had a nice rebound after an awful outing Tuesday. Chargois, Paul Sewald, Keynan Middleton and Rafael Montero combined to work 3 1/3 innings without allowing a run, hit or a walk, striking out three.