There aren’t many better ways to extend a consecutive-games played streak.
The first time Kyle Seager stepped into the batter’s box of T-Mobile Park on Thursday night came as a pinch-hitter in a tie game with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the winning run on third base.
After disliking a questionable called strike from home-plate umpire Joe West on an inside fastball from right-hander Pete Fairbanks, Seager jumped all over a 97 mph fastball in the middle of plate, ripping a hard ground ball through the infield that was by second baseman Brandon Lowe and first baseman Ji-Man Choi before they could even think of stopping it.
A celebrating Jake Bauers raced home, scoring the winning run against his former team while his current teammates spilled out of the dugout to try and tackle Seager in right field to celebrate a 6-5 walkoff win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It was supposed to be an off day for Kyle, but when you get to that point in the game and you’ve got your one bullet to shoot, you might as well shoot it,” manager Scott Servais said. “I give Seags a ton of credit. On an off day, you kind of shut down mentally and physically, but we gave him a heads up that if there’s two out and two on in the ninth, we were probably gonna need him to hit. He stepped up and got the big hit for us.”
The late-inning heroics from Seager extended his consecutive games played streak to 207 games. It’s the second-longest active streak in MLB behind Whit Merrifield’s 374 consecutive games played for Kansas City.
But coming into the game, Seager didn’t really know or care too much about the streak. He didn’t think he was going to play.
“No,” he said with laugh. “I did not think I was getting in that game. It worked out though. I’m glad I did.”
And the streak?
“The important part of me is to A) be somebody they want to put in the lineup every day. I think that’s a big part of it,” he said. “And B) is taking care of yourself physically where you’re able to do that is also a big part of it. You want to be the dependable guy, you want to be the guy that you can almost just take for granted that you’ll go out there and do your job. That’s always been the goal. I’ve got a few games to go to catch Ripken.”
Servais wanted to give the team’s oldest player at age 33 a full day of rest, which he relayed to Seager.
“The plan was a full day down to regroup physically and mentally,” Servais said.
Seager didn’t participate in the pregame infield work and the Mariners didn’t take pregame batting practice. The only time he was on the field before the game was to chat with his former teammate and buddy Mike Zunino and former head athletic trainer Rick Griffin.
But in the eighth inning, he was told he might pinch hit if there was a chance to win or tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.
His teammates got him into the game.
Down 5-4 going into the ninth inning, Dylan Moore worked a walk off Fairbanks and Bauers followed with a single to center. After a failed bunt attempt by Luis Torrens, Shed Long Jr. laced a double into left field to score Moore with the tying run. Seager saw none of this happening. He was in the underneath batting cages taking swings off longtime batting practice pitcher Nasusel Cabrera, getting ready to possibly pinch hit.
“I was in the cage for most of the inning,” he said. “You can kind of hear the highlights. And someone was yelling at me what was going on.”
The victory helped offset the disappointment of losing another starting pitcher to an injury.
Right-hander Justin Dunn exited the game after just two innings pitched with what the team labeled as right-shoulder discomfort. He will undergo an MRI on Friday morning.
“It was bothering me a little bit during warmups,” he said. “But it was one of those situations where you’ve got to be able to throw through some stuff. And at that point, I felt like it was my job to go take the ball and see how long I can go. But in the second inning, I felt like my arm action was changing a little bit. And that was kind of my tell to say something.”
Dunn pitched two shutout innings, allowing just one hit — a single from Randy Arozarena — and striking out a batter. His fastball was touching 95 mph and he showed no signs of issues on the mound.
But shortly after he walked into the dugout after the top of the second, right-hander J.T. Chargois started warming up quickly with the intent of starting the top of the third.
“I didn’t want to potentially keep going through something if I had to manipulate the way I threw it to be able to pitch,” he said. “That only leads to more problems. So hopefully I was able to shut it down quick enough. We’ll get it looked at tomorrow. And hopefully nothing is too bad.”
For at least the fourth time this season, the Mariners will only have five healthy starters for their six-man rotation. Don’t forget, there was that stretch when they only had four healthy starters for the six spots and refused to change from it, instead using a bullpen start in each opening.
With an off day Monday and another Thursday and a third off day on the upcoming road trip, the Mariners can slot out the rotation to avoid using the bullpen for at least two turns through the rotation. They could possibly only need to make one bullpen start until the All-Star break.
Whether that will be enough time for Dunn to get healthy and return before that bullpen start is needed seems unlikely given this would be his second stint on the injured list with the same shoulder discomfort in the span of three weeks.
“My concern level is not crazy high,” he said. “I obviously don’t like that. It’s the shoulder. That scares me a little bit. But the fact that my velocity is the same and my stuff was the same is encouraging. My strength is good. We got that checked out. The strength is all good. So praying it’s nothing structurally. I think I need a little rest. I’m hopeful that it’s nothing too serious or nothing too crazy.”
After making his scheduled start May 29, throwing 5 2/3 innings against Texas and allowing just one run on two hits, Dunn felt some fatigue in his shoulder in the days that followed. Seattle put him on the 10-day injured list, but he was back throwing a few days later. He was activated from the IL on June 11, starting that night against Cleveland. He struggled, pitching just three innings and allowing five runs on nine hits with three walks and a strikeout. Dunn said he had no issues with the shoulder after the game but admitted he had some rust from not throwing in a game for 10 days.
After throwing a scoreless third inning and his teammates giving him a 1-0 lead on J.P. Crawford’s RBI single, Chargois was pushed into a second inning of work for the second time in four days. And it didn’t go as well as the last outing. Ji-Man Choi, a one-time Mariners prospect, singled to start the inning and Arozarena crushed an 0-2 slider over the wall in left-center for a 2-1 Tampa lead.
The Rays pushed the lead to 3-1 in the fifth with a run off Rafael Montero, who retired the first two batters on five pitches. But Montero issued a two-out walk to Brett Phillips, who easily stole second and then scored on Brandon Lowe’s single to left.
The Mariners trimmed the deficit to one run when Torrens crushed a solo homer into their bullpen area off Rays starter lefty Rich Hill. It was Torrens’ second homer since being recalled from Class AAA Tacoma on Monday.
Tampa answered with two runs in the sixth to push the lead to 5-2. Montero gave up a leadoff single to Arozarena and was lifted for lefty Anthony Misiewicz, who promptly allowed a double to the lefty hitting Austin Meadows. The Rays pushed the runs across with a sac fly to center and an infield single from Kevin Kiermaier.
Again, the Mariners were able to get within a run. Ty France, who like Torrens homered in Tuesday’s win over the Twins, crushed a two-run blast into the second tier of Edgar’s Cantina off a hanging curveball from Hill that made it 5-4 in the sixth.
Seattle got the tying run on base when Tom Murphy drew a walk off Hill that would end his evening. But after Moore struck out, Bauers hit a line drive that was caught by shortstop Taylor Walls, who fired to first to double off Murphy.
The Mariners asked for a replay review. While multiple replays shown in the stadium and on the television broadcast seemed to show Murphy getting back before Choi caught the throw at first, the replay review upheld the call on the field to end the inning.