Here’s the easiest possible way to communicate the Mariners’ eight-run third inning Sunday.
Mallex Smith walks. J.P. Crawford singles. Domingo Santana singles. Smith scores. Daniel Vogelbach walks. Omar Narvaez flies out. Crawford scores. Kyle Seager walks. Pitching change. Doesn’t matter. Austin Nola singles. Santana scores. Mac Williamson gets hit by pitch. Vogelbach scores. Dee Gordon singles. Seager scores. Smith singles. Nola scores. Crawford singles (again). Williamson scores. Gordon scores. Santana strikes out. Vogelbach flies out. Curtains.
See? Simple. But you didn’t come here for simple. You came here for context. And there was plenty of that to be found in the Mariners’ 13-3 victory over Baltimore on Sunday.
Take Crawford, for example. After the Seattle shortstop’s first single of the inning, he clapped his hands so hard you could hear it above the crowd noise. Each of his first four plate appearances resulted in a hit, and the first three, coincidentally, came on 93 mph fastballs. His solo homer in the first inning traveled 427 feet at 107 mph. It screamed into the seats before the streaking 24-year-old could trot halfway to first.
“J.P. is in a really good spot,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I thought he was playing great before he had the setback with the ankle injury, and he came back and has not missed a beat. Very confident. He has a good idea of the strike zone, and when he juiced that ball for the home run in the first inning you kind of had a feeling he might have a big day.”
“Big day” does not begin to cover it. Crawford finished 4 for 4 with four RBI and two runs scored, in undoubtedly the best offensive performance of his brief (and promising) big-league career. He’s now hitting .300 with a .377 on-base percentage in exactly 100 at-bats in his first season with Seattle.
“We certainly gave up a good player to get J.P. Crawford,” Servais said, referencing the departed Jean Segura. “But with where he’s at in his development, at his age, it’s huge. Just let him go out there; let him play. You know, let him learn. That’s what it’s about.
“There’s going to be some failures. There’s going to be some rough games along the way. But I think what we’re starting to see is this is a guy who will really be a big part of our future going forward, in the fact that he’s in the middle of the field at shortstop. It’s huge. It’s really, really big.”
Oh, and what about those bungling Baltimore pitchers? Gabriel Ynoa and Matt Wotherspoon combined to throw 56 pitches and allow 11 baserunners in the third inning alone. At one point, six consecutive Mariners reached base — and none managed more than a single.
“We hit some balls in the right spots,” Servais conceded. “We certainly didn’t scorch all the balls in the big eight-run inning.”
You might want to avert your eyes from Ynoa’s final line: 2 1/3 innings, five hits, three walks, seven earned runs. When Vogelbach finally flew out to end the Mariners’ marathon third inning, the 250-pound slab of concrete spiked his bat into the turf with such force that it’s a miracle it didn’t stick.
Early in the inning, it started to rain. And then the Mariners made it pour.
“Oh, it’s definitely fun,” Crawford said of the eight-run inning and 10-run victory margin. “You can feel the vibe is different in here after a good win like that. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
That rolling avalanche of runs provided needed relief for Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi (4-5), who allowed five hits, five walks and three earned runs in six innings to claim his first victory since May 19. After throwing 48 pitches and surrendering four walks, three hits and two runs in his first two innings, Kikuchi settled down and delivered a quality start.
“It was kind of a strange day for him in the fact that it took him a while to get going,” Servais said. “Certainly when we put the big lead up there he calmed down and really was much more aggressive after that.”
Added Kikuchi, through a translator: “It wasn’t my best performance. It wasn’t my 100 percent performance. But I was able to grind through. So I was proud of that.
“And also the last five starts I haven’t been able to perform as best I could. Skip’s (Servais) been very nice to me and given me a bunch of advice, and my teammates around me have praised me a lot and helped me build my confidence. So I really wanted to do well for my team today.”
The two relievers Seattle recalled from Class AAA Tacoma on Sunday — Matt Carasiti and Mike Wright — each made their mark as well. Carasiti allowed just one hit while striking out the side in his Mariners debut, while Wright scattered a hit and two strikeouts in two innings of scoreless work to help secure a series victory.
In the end, every starting Seattle position player scored a run in the resounding victory. The Mariners would love to replicate that feat in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
But it’s never that simple — especially this season.
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