DETROIT – Many years from now, when Kyle Seager tells his son, Crue, about the time he hit three home runs in one game at Comerica Park, the description and distance of that magical third dinger will probably have grown with time. The fact that it wasn’t going over the fence and probably should have been caught by Niko Goodrum, but wasn’t because of left field Brandon Dixon, won’t be mentioned.
“It’s probably going to end up being a no-doubter, if we are being honest with ourselves,” he said.
Of course, there is the little matter of the internet and video and the immediacy of Google searches.
“I’m going to have look it up on the internet tonight because I still haven’t actually seen it,” he said.
Nevertheless, Seager’s three-homer night – the first of his career – helped the Mariners shrug off another suboptimal start from Yusei Kikuchi and roll to an 11-6 win over the Tigers (35-81), handing another loss to the worst team in baseball.
Seattle (49-71) snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in 10 games. But it was the Mariners’ fifth consecutive win against Detroit this season.
Besides the three homers, Seager also tied a career high with six RBI in the game. Over his last 18 games, Seager is batting .374 (25-64) with three doubles, a triple, eight homers, 16 RBI and an OPS over 1.200. He hit homers off of a fastball, a slider and a sinker away. He credited hitting coach Tim Laker with his recent success.
“It’s definitely being in a good position if you can hit three different types of pitches,” he said. “My positioning has been much better. That goes back to Laker working with me and getting everything right to where you are able to keep a slider fair, you are able to elevate a fastball and you are able to drive a ball the other direction.”
Seager’s memorable third homer came in the ninth inning and turned a three-run lead into a comfortable victory. The extra runs rewarded the Mariners’ beleaguered bullpen on night where six pitchers worked 5 2/3 innings and allowed just one run — and no runs in the final four frames.
With two outs in the ninth and Domingo Santana on third, Seager launched a 2-1 sinker from Jose Cisneros to left-center, which is not his typical power spot. The high fly ball kept carrying, but it became clear Goodrum was tracking it to make a play. Two steps onto the warning track the ball was just about to nestle into Goodrum’s glove when Dixon, filled with eagerness to make a play, collided with his teammate. The ball bounced off the heel of Goodrum’s glove and onto the top of the wall, rolling over it for a two-run homer. Seager had two plate appearances to get a third. He worked a walk before the at-bat in the ninth.
“The game was still tight, we are up three and you have a guy on third and you have two outs,” Seager said. “That’s a big run. But it’s hard not to say you aren’t thinking about it. With his power sinker away and left field isn’t usually conducive to me for homers. But it worked out.”
So he’ll take that third one?
“Oh yes, without question, for sure,” he said.
Seager became the 13th Mariner to hit three or more homers in a game. He now has 14 on the season. The last Seattle player to hit three homers in a game came on Sept. 22, 2010, when Jose Lopez did it against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
“They all count,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s hard to hit home runs in this league. Great night by Kyle. He got a little help on that third one. It’s hard to do to put three together like that.”
Seager couldn’t remember the last time he hit three in a game at any level.
“I’m drawing a blank on that,” he said. “I don’t think I have.”
Murphy had followed Seager’s first two homers with homers of his own, but settled for a walk in the ninth.
“I certainly tried, that’s for sure,” he said. “That was pretty to cool to see.”
Seager’s second homer was the most pivotal in a game that seemed destined for defeat following Kikuchi’s four-run implosion in the fourth inning. But the Mariners, down three runs, unleashed on Tigers starter and Eastside Catholic grad Matthew Boyd. The homer-hitting duo of Seager and Tom Murphy, who had hit back-to-back homers off Boyd in the fourth inning, did it again to ignite the sixth.
With one out and runners on first and second, Seager turned on a 1-1 slider from Boyd, yanking it deep into the right field seats to tie the game at 6. Moments later, Murphy got a fastball up in the zone and pounded it deep into the left-field seats for a 7-6 lead.
Seattle tacked on two more runs off Boyd. Dee Gordon singled, stole second and scored on Tim Lopes’ double to right. Mallex Smith filleted a double into shallow left to score Lopes for the final run of the inning.
After a solid but shortened outing of five innings in his previous start, Kikuchi had none of the crispness or life on his pitches against a Tigers lineup that he should have had success against. He gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts with two more homers allowed. And it left the normally protective Servais irritated postgame.
“He didn’t really repeat what he had done the last time out,” Servais said. “Against the Padres, he was very solid mechanically. And he wasn’t able to repeat it.”
He managed to work the first two innings scoreless despite multiple base runners in each. After J.P. Crawford gave him a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the top of the third inning, Kikuchi gave it right back in the bottom half of the inning, allowing an RBI double to Miguel Cabrera.
Again Kikuchi’s teammates gave him a lead, with Seager and Murphy pulling their back-to-back homer trick with solo shots to right field off of Boyd that made it 3-1.
But instead of coming back with a shutdown bottom of the fourth, Kikuchi did the just opposite and never finished. He gave up a leadoff homer to one-time Mariner catching prospect John Hicks, who has hit three of his eight homers this season against his old team, and the inning spiraled out of control. Another single and a towering two-run homer to left from Jake Rogers gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead. Kikuchi gave up another single to Jordy Mercer, got his only out on a fielder’s choice and then served up a ground-rule double to Dawel Lugo to put runners on second and third. At that point, Servais had seen enough and lifted his starter.
“You have to execute pitches,” Servais said. “I was disappointed tonight. I thought he found something the last time out and he just wasn’t able to repeat it. That’s on him. He’s a pro and he’s pitched a lot. When you find something that works, you have to trust it and stay with it and we didn’t see that tonight.”
Grotz entered and intentionally walked Cabrera to load the bases to set up a potential double play. But he negated the strategy by wild-pitching in a run that was charged to Kikuchi before getting the final two outs of the inning. He picked up his first MLB win in relief.
Brandon Brennan left the game with discomfort in his shoulder after throwing two pitches in the sixth. But Servais said he tested out fine after the game.