For people that like/collect baseball-related T-shirts, Ty France’s wardrobe is one they’d envy. They include a series of shirts related to Ken Griffey Jr. from the company Baseballism, including the one he wore to the ballpark Sunday that said, “The Kid” on the front and “I got my swing from The Kid” on the back.
Little did he know, The Kid would be at T-Mobile Park on Sunday. Griffey was on hand to see the Mariners complete a four-game sweep of the Rangers and watch France drive in three of the four runs in the 4-2 victory.
Asked if having Griffey in the park provided some inspiration for the two key hits, France chuckled.
“I didn’t know he was here until after my second at-bat and then was 0 for 2 after that,” he said. “I wish I wouldn’t have known.”
But a 2-for-4 day with a double and three RBI is something the Mariners will happily take. The Mariners have missed the healthy version of France that they saw in the first 17 games of the season where he posted a .311/.411/.525 slash line with four doubles, three homers, 10 RBI, seven walks and 18 strikeouts.
But a 98 mph pitch off his right forearm from Dustin May left more than a mark. And five days later he injured his wrist diving for a ball in Houston.
From the time he took the ball off the forearm until he went on the 10-day injured list May 14, France played 19 games, posting a .159/.266/.232 slash line with five doubles, four RBI, nine walks and 12 strikeouts.
But now that the wrist is almost completely healthy, he’s back to spraying balls all over the park for hits. In the seven games since his return from the injured list, he’s reached base every game and has a .375/.423/.458 slash line with nine hits, five RBI, two walks and four strikeouts.
It’s easy to do when your bottom hand doesn’t ache on every swing.
“Not having that in the back of my mind on every swing, it definitely makes a difference,” he said. “There’s still a couple swings where I can feel it a little bit but the training staff has done a good job to get me healthy or as healthy I can be. It definitely feels a lot better.”
France ripped a two-out first-inning double into left field off Hyeon-Jong Yang to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
In the third, he came to the plate with runners on second and third and one out. With first base open and the left-handed J.P. Crawford hitting behind him, he didn’t expect to see much to hit. The Rangers even had a mound visit with Yang to go over the situation. Yang threw a first-pitch slider for a called strike on the outside corner. He threw another slider toward the back foot of France for a swing and miss strike.
“Those first two were definitely pitcher’s pitches,” France said.
Yang threw another slider to France’s back foot, which he fouled off.
Catcher Jose Trevino called for a fastball up and out of the strike zone to get France to chase for strike three and steal an out. But Yang left the ball at the waist and on the inner half of the plate. France pounced on it, sending a single up the middle to score two runs.
“I was surprised that pitch got as much of the plate as it did,” France said. “Being there was a base open and a lefty on deck, I thought he would pitch around me. He let that one leak a little more middle. And I just was able to put it in play.”
France’s return to the Mariners lineup gives Seattle another established hitter in the middle of the order.
“Getting Ty France back in our lineup, it’s lengthened our lineup,” manager Scott Servais said. “I love having him in the five hole. There’s going to be RBI opportunities in that spot. … This guy can hit all the pitches. He uses the whole field to hit. So it really has made a difference for us offensively.”
A MRI revealed a relatively serious groin strain for reliever Erik Swanson. Servais said Swanson will be “out for an extended period of time.”
He likely won’t be allowed to do any sort of physical activity for a few weeks and then will have to build his strength up in his legs and his arm.
Infielder Dylan Moore (calf strain) has increased his baseball activities on the field and is also doing plyometric and agility work.
First baseman Evan White (hip flexor strain) is taking batting practice and fielding ground balls, but has yet to do any sort of running to test the injury.