Not this version of Kyle Seager.
The veteran third baseman was often criticized for his slow starts to seasons that included plate production well below expectations.
But thus far in 2021, he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball, particularly when his team needs it most.
After watching closer Rafael Montero blow his third save of the season, failing to protect a one-run lead in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Orioles, Seager gave the Mariners a lead they didn’t lose again in a 4-3 victory. In the second game, Baltimore rallied late for a 7-6 home victory at Camden Yards.
In that first game, facing left-hander Tanner Scott, Seager narrowly missed another game-winning home run, settling for a run-scoring double off the top of wall in right-center field. Mitch Haniger scored easily on the play.
Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless eighth to pick up the save.
Seager hit a pair of homers in the Mariners’ comeback victory over the Twins on Sunday, including a three-run blast in the ninth. Over his past five games, he’s got 10 hits in 18 at-bats with two doubles, two homers and nine RBI compared to a 3-for-20 showing in his first five games of the season.
“He’s really swung it well,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He didn’t have a lot of luck when he was hitting the ball hard in the first few games. It’s turned around for him here in the last four games. He had really good at-bats today against quality left handed pitchers.”
As for the slow-starter label, Seager has a career .249/.321/.431 slash line in 174 games played in March and April. He also didn’t play in April in 2019 due to injury and 2020 due to the pandemic. A glance at his year-by-year April splits show a .292/.359/.491 slash line for 28 games in 2013 and also an ugly .159/.266/.378 line 2016.
Montero entered the game with a 3-2 lead in the seventh. He got two quick outs, but allowed a double to Ryan Mountcastle and D.J. Stewart’s soft ground ball through the left side to beat the shifted infield.
Montero’s performance ruined a solid outing from starter Justus Sheffield, who bounced back after a subpar start to open the season.
Sheffield pitched six innings, allowing two runs on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He cruised through the first four innings, holding the Orioles scoreless while displaying a competent changeup and his always outstanding slider. But with two outs in the fifth, he issued a four-pitch walk to Stewart and then left a 2-1 fastball up in the strike zone to Ramon Urias, which turned into a two-run homer.
“I was getting some quick outs with it,” he said of the changeup. “And that was the game plan going into it. In my last outing, my changeup was getting hit hard. And it was just cutting on me. This week was a work week with that pitch. I was able to execute it well tonight.”
The Mariners scored three quick runs on Orioles starter John Means, who allowed just one run in his first two starts of the season. Ty France took advantage of a misplaced 2-2 changeup from Means, hammering a solo homer to left-center for a 1-0 lead in the first.
In the second inning, Tom Murphy worked a 2-0 count and crushed a fastball for a solo homer. Murphy’s first homer of the season was measured at 419 feet. The Mariners tacked on another run when Evan White walked, advanced to second on J.P. Crawford’s first of two singles in the game and scored on Haniger’s hard ground ball single to center that made it 3-0.
“Really good job by our hitting coaches in identifying what Means had early on and what the approach should be,” Servais said. “Obviously, this guy has a riding fastball and pitches up in the zone. Our guys were ready for it. We worked him for some pretty good counts and took advantage of it. You can have the greatest plan in the world, but you’ve still got to execute it. And that’s a credit to our guys. They were ready to go right for the first pitch.”
Orioles 7, Mariners 6
The Mariners blew a four-run lead because of their defense and they managed to lose a game they had unexpectedly tied in the last inning because of their defense.
Miscues, mistakes and missed opportunities were prevalent in the Mariners’ 7-6 defeat against the Orioles in the seven-inning nightcap.
Down 6-4 going into the top of the seventh, the Mariners got a leadoff single from Crawford and some unexpected power from utility infielder Sam Haggerty, who was making the start in left field.
Facing right-hander Adam Plutko, Haggerty worked a 3-1 count and took advantage of a 91-mph fastball on the inside corner, pulling a deep homer over the wall in right field and onto Eutaw Street. The two-run homer tied the game at 6-6 and set the Mariners up for a possible sweep.
Brought in to try and send the game to extra innings, right-hander Casey Sadler seemed to have done just that. He quickly retired the first two batters of the inning. And even a two-out walk to Maikel Franco appeared to be just a hiccup when he got Ryan McKenna to hit a soft ground ball back to the mound.
Sadler seemed in perfect position to field the ball and inexplicably missed it. It should’ve been the third out of the inning. Instead, it brought Urias to the plate. After a wild pitch from Sadler moved the runners into scoring position, Urias singled up the middle to easily score pinch runner Rio Ruiz to end the game.
Upon McKenna’s contact, Servais thought the inning was over.
“No doubt,” he said. “But you’ve got to finish plays. (Sadler) just kind of misjudged it I guess on that slow roller. Errors happen. That’s why you play the game and you’ve got to make all the plays and we just didn’t finish it off tonight.”
As memorable as Sadler’s error might be, the third inning was far more decisive in the outcome.
Taking a four-run lead in the third inning of a seven-inning game would seem to be a pretty logical path to victory. Well, unless you fail to make three plays on defense and immediately give back those four runs. It basically torched the outing of starter Nick Margevicius.
Seattle grabbed that 4-0 lead off Orioles starter Dean Kremer, loading the bases with one out on a single from Crawford, a double from Haniger and a walk to France. Seager drove in Crawford with a sacrifce fly to left while Jose Marmolejos cleared the remaining runners and scored himself, sending a towering home run just over the wall in right field to make it 4-0.
Margevicius should’ve had a shutdown bottom half of the inning. He allowed a leadoff single on a flyball that probably should’ve been caught by Haggerty. After striking out Cedric Mullins, he appeared to get a routine double play ball to France at second base. But France mishandled the ball and didn’t record an out. After hitting Anthony Santander with a pitch to load the bases, Margevicius struck out Trey Mancini for the second out.
But the third out proved difficult.
Franco doubled into the left-field corner. The Mariners appeared to have Santander out at the plate to end the inning, but Luis Torrens couldn’t hold on to the ball on the slide.
“We’ve got to finish plays and we didn’t do it tonight,” Servais said. “If you don’t do that, you’re not gonna win ballgames. But our guys are competing very, very well. I think you see it up and down the lineup and in the field. Everybody’s into it. Everybody’s contributing. And that’s what it takes for us to continue to play good baseball. But the way we stubbed our toe in the second game is disappointing.”
Baltimore tacked on two more runs in the fourth with both charged to Margevicius. He allowed a leadoff single and walked a batter before being removed from the game. His replacement, Will Vest, allowed a run-scoring double to Mullins and a sacrifice fly to make it 6-4.