What had been relatively underplayed this season was the disintegration of Kyle Seager’s bat, a dormant weapon that finally erupted Sunday.
The decline of Felix Hernandez? That’s been a front-page frenzy that has sparked speculation and scrutiny across Seattle and beyond.
The absence of Robinson Cano? A national headline that spawned outrage and heated discussions regarding the legacy of a man who seemed like a Hall of Fame lock.
What had been relatively underplayed, however, was the disintegration of Kyle Seager’s bat, a dormant weapon that finally erupted Sunday. And if the Mariners are going to end this torturous playoff drought, it’s that Kyle Seager that we’re gonna have to see.
Mariners @ Texas Rangers, 5:05 p.m., ROOT Sports
“We had the Seager game today. We’ve been waiting for that one,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He was due. There is no doubt about that.”
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Entering Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, Seager was sporting career lows in batting average (.228), on-base percentage (.278) and OPS (.683). His on-base percentage was 150th out of 156 qualified players, and his offensive WAR of 1.2 was on pace to be about a third of what it was two years ago.
People are used to Seager starting the season slow, and when the M’s were 24 games above .500 and playing some of the best ball in the league, his offensive anemia went unnoticed. But when the M’s were watching the A’s soar past them in the standings amid a five-game losing streak, the struggles of the former All-Star were impossible to ignore.
To his credit, Seager did something about all that in Seattle’s 6-3 win over Toronto on Sunday. He smacked a solo home run to lead off the sixth and give his team a two-run lead, then hit another solo shot in the seventh that put the Mariners up three. The initial bomb marked the first time the third baseman had put one over the fence in 21 games, his longest such skid of the season.
The Mariners’ offense has been the primary source of the team’s dip over the past month or so. Before Sunday, they had scored three runs or fewer in 18 of their past 23 games.
In no way did this fall squarely on Seager, who had been just one part of the offensive famine. But he knows there was a hitting standard that he wasn’t hitting.
“We haven’t been doing what we want to do, and I certainly haven’t been doing my part,” Seager said. “But today felt good, and hopefully we can continue to put up some runs.”
Seager’s 18 home runs are on pace to surpass the 25 he has averaged over the six previous seasons. And his 60 runs batted in are on pace to surpass the 85 he averaged over that same span. His defensive metrics, meanwhile, are among the best of his career.
Seager hasn’t been invisible this season, but he hasn’t been himself. And with the Mariners 2½ games back of the blistering A’s in the wild-card standings, him finding his old self is essential.
“He’s got the capability. We’ve seen it before. He can get really hot for stretches and have games like he had today,” Servais said. “I’m happy for him. He’s been grinding, too. Everybody knows the situation we’ve been in offensively. … I saw some guys with slumped shoulders walk out of here last night and were a little bit down. So it’s great to see him bounce back like he did today.”
Monday, the Mariners begin a 10-game road trip in which they’ll play the Rangers, Astros and A’s. I won’t go so far as to call it “season-defining,” but a poor showing over that week and a half could put them in a daunting hole.
Interestingly enough, Seager has hit twice as many home runs on the road as he has at home this year and, before this past game, was slugging 90 points better. If he could pick a time to have the road trip of his career, this might be it.
Sunday, Seager emerged from a power outage spectacularly. With two swings, he reminded fans and opposing pitchers what he was capable of.
The trick now is to keep it going. Folks around here don’t want to “wait” for the Seager game, they want to expect it.