TORONTO – There wasn’t the traditional noise of ball hitting metal to know that it was a home run. In the Rogers Centre, they don’t use foul poles. They use yellow nets in the dimensions of typical foul poles, suspended from ceiling to field with cables to simulate the boundaries between fair and foul instead.
So when Kyle Seager’s rocket to right field flirted with the boundary, there was no distinct sound that usually helps determine the outcome. Instead, it wasn’t until the ball immediately stopped flying and fell to the ground that you knew it was homer, not just a long strike.
Seager’s 15th homer of the season – a solo blast in the eighth inning off a first-pitch fastball from left-handed specialist Tim Mayza – broke up a tie game and proved to be the game-winning hit in the Mariners’ 4-3 victory Saturday over the Blue Jays
“That’s a tough lefty,” Seager said. “I faced him last night and grounded into a double-play ball. I knew he has good sink and throws hard. I think you are better to (error) on the side of aggression. If you get behind guys like that, it’s going to be tough outcome.”
It was Seager’s ninth homer in 22 games. Over that span, he’s hitting .363 with an on-base plus slugging percentage over 1.200. It was the 190th homer of his career, which is the most of any Mariners infielder. He surpassed Alex Rodriguez with the blast.
“That is pretty cool,” he said. “I didn’t know about that one. It’s not something I take lightly.”
With a healthy body and some adjusted swing mechanics, Seager is crushing fastballs he simply couldn’t handle last season.
“If you are missing fastballs and you aren’t on fastballs, you aren’t going to be successful,” he said. “Last year, I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. I had physical issues that wouldn’t let me do it. If the ball was in one spot, I could maybe hit it.”
Using their bullpen to make the start, the Mariners rolled out seven different relievers to pick up the victory and hold the Blue Jays to just three runs.
Matt Magill got the first MLB save of his career, striking out Bo Bichette with the tying run on second to end the game. Anthony Bass picked up the victory in relief.
“We had a lot of guys step up today and certainly a lot of guys chipped in and got big outs at different times,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “But none bigger than those last three outs. I’m excited for Magill and how far he’s come since we acquired him.”
After striking out the first two batters with ease, Magill allowed a two-out double to former Kentwood High standout Reese McGuire, who also had a solo homer earlier in the game. It brought Bichette, a talented prospect and leadoff hitter, to the plate. Bichette had homered earlier in the game and has been on a hitting tear since being called up. But Magill struck out Bichette looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
“That was fun,” Magill said. “When you are a kid, you dream about finishing a game in a big situation. For me, I brought myself back to that moment and said, ‘You earned it, you earned this spot to be here, so just give everything you have.'”
Keon Broxton drove in a pair of runs with sacrifice flies and Austin Nola hit a solo homer to help account for the rest of the Mariners’ offense.
Bullpen starts are less than ideal scenarios for any team. However, with the plan in place to call up prospect Justus Sheffield from Class AA Arkansas in another week or two and Felix Hernandez not quite ready to come off the injured list, the Mariners decided to use their nine-man bullpen to get nine innings of work.
Reggie McClain got the start, pitching two innings and allowing a run. Cory Gearrin provided 1 2/3 inning of scoreless pitching. Left-hander Taylor Guilbeau replaced Gearrin and made his MLB debut. He became the 62nd player and 40th pitcher used. Guilbeau gave up a homer to Bichette, but worked a full inning.
Right-hander Zac Grotz pitched 1 1/3 innings without allowing a run. Bass pitched the seventh, giving up the tying run on McGuire’s solo homer.
Once the Mariners had the lead, Sam Tuivailala pitched a 1-2-3 eighth to set up Magill.
“It never goes perfectly,” Servais said of his bullpen plan. “We needed to get six innings out of that group of first four guys and we did.”
Some credit should be given to Wade LeBlanc, who pitched seven innings Friday night in a defeat to keep the rest of the relievers fresh.
“Maybe he didn’t get the results or win last night,” Magill said. “But the hidden star in this game would be him for going that long so we could make sure we had enough guys for today.”