Scott Servais has never seen a Star Wars movie.
This embarrassing bit of Mariners trivia was revealed a few minutes after 4 p.m. on Friday, when the topic of “Star Wars Night” was broached with the 51-year-old Seattle skipper.
“That changes everything,” Servais said sarcastically, leaning back on the chair in his office. “It really does. Coming into the ballpark today I said, ‘You know what? We probably don’t have a chance to win.’ But it’s Star Wars night, so we’re right where we want to be.
“I’ve never watched one minute of a Star Wars movie, but I know it’s a big night.”
Servais probably didn’t understand the reference, then, when Mitch Haniger was referred to as “Mitch Hansologer” on the video board; when his teammates likewise were introduced as “Kylo Seager,” “Tim Chewbaccam” and “Daniel Yodabach”; when the players’ features were photoshopped onto the faces of beloved Wookiees, Jedi and bounty hunters alike.
On the video board, at least, this looked like a different team.
And for one night only, the Mariners played like it, too. They snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3.
Mike Leake (4-6) certainly looked like a different starter. After allowing 12 earned runs in his previous two starts, Leake surrendered just two runs and five hits in seven innings.
“I thought that was the best Mike Leake has thrown in quite some time,” Servais said after the game. “Just really good rhythm. Mike’s a feel guy, and he was feeling it with the breaking ball early tonight. He ran some cutters in there and just kept them off balance all night.”
The 31-year-old right-hander finally ran into trouble in the sixth, when Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani walloped solo homers to left field on back-to-back pitches. But Leake’s batterymate picked him up. That all started in the third inning, when Mariners catcher Tom Murphy lined a double off the wall in left-center. After he advanced to third because of a balk by Angels starter Tyler Skaggs, Dylan Moore fisted a soft liner to center and Murphy trotted in to score.
The burly 28-year-old backstop added on in the fifth, driving a hanging breaking ball on the outside corner into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. Murphy — who later threw Angels left fielder Brian Goodwin out stealing as well — uncorked a mini fist pump as he rounded first base.
“That one I knew I got,” Murphy said after nearly registering a multihomer night. “That’s kind of something we’ve been working on in the cage a little bit — just catching the ball a little bit deeper. Today it just kind of clicked.”
So, yes, this didn’t look like a team that entered Friday having lost 12 of its past 14 games. The Mariners — gasp — even managed a night of error-less defense, with the highlight being a diving Haniger catch in right-center that ended the seventh inning. Third baseman Kyle Seager also delivered a bare-handed beauty to first to beat Angels shortstop David Fletcher after a swinging bunt with one out in the ninth.
And let’s not forget about the man branded with the one-night nickname “Qui-Gon Jay Bruce.” With two outs in the seventh inning, the 32-year-old veteran drilled the 300th homer of his 12-year career over the wall in dead center. In doing so, Bruce became the eighth active player with at least 300 home runs and doubles.
“I don’t let myself take a lot of time to think about stuff like that, but when I look back I’ll definitely appreciate this moment for sure,” Bruce said after the win. “I don’t take it for granted. I’m proud, but I tend to try to turn the page pretty quickly.”
Friday’s page, it turns out, may still be soaked in suds. Bruce was on the receiving end of the first beer shower of his career after the Mariner’s milestone.
“It’s good. It’s good. Cold. Very cold,” Bruce said, when asked to describe the experience. “If you had told me that I was going to hit my 300th homer playing first base for the Seattle Mariners I probably would have called you crazy.
“But you take what you can get. There’s no rhyme or reason. I’ve been welcomed by a great group of guys here — guys that have made me part of this thing, and I appreciate that.”
But the Mariners’ metaphorical X-wing was nearly shot out of the sky in the eighth, when relievers Austin Adams and Jesse Biddle combined to allow three walks, a hit and one earned run. Anthony Bass finally stopped the bleeding, forcing an Anthony Lucroy line out to left field that stranded the bases loaded and preserved a narrow 4-3 lead. Bass then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close the show and cue the fireworks.
After it was over, Servais personally delivered the Mariners’ lineup card to Bruce’s locker, to be kept as a memento. The force may not be especially strong in Servais, but Seattle’s skipper was right.
Though the references surely eluded him, it was certainly a big night.