This time, Jake Bauers had just enough distance and hit it to a slightly more friendly spot in T-Mobile Park.
After believing he had hit the go-ahead home run to dead center in the fifth inning, Bauers got to endure the stinging disappointment so many hitters have felt before him at T-Mobile Park. His seemingly sure homer off the bat was swallowed up by the cool marine air and died in the glove of center fielder Gilberto Celestino right at the wall.
So when he smoked a deep fly ball toward the right-center wall in the eighth inning of a tie game, Bauers was cautiously optimistic. But he certainly wasn’t going to admire his work or break into an early trot. Running hard out of the box, Bauers watched as the ball carried just over the wall and out of the reach of new center fielder Nick Gordon for his first homer as a member of the Mariners.
The solo blast proved to be the difference Monday night in Seattle’s 4-3 victory over the Twins.
“I definitely thought I got that one,” Bauers said of the fifth-inning flyout. “I’ve hit a few homers to center in my day. And that was definitely on the list of something that I would say should be a homer. I think maybe I was a little slow running to first on that one because I thought it was gone.”
Bauers wasn’t slow to first in the eighth. With the game tied at 3-3, he was going to make sure he was in scoring position if it didn’t get over the wall or land in Gordon’s glove.
“That last one I booked it a little bit because I thought I might have had a chance at a triple and then finally saw them signal home run,” he said.
The Mariners acquired Bauers from Cleveland in a trade for cash considerations during the previous road trip. Bauers is a former top-100 prospect who never quite reached expected production levels, and the hope is that he can finally blossom with a new team.
“There’s nothing better than contributing to your new club and helping them win a few games,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “You feel like you belong and you’re making a big impact as you get to know people and get to know our process and how we kind of go about things here.”
Servais has seen many players learn the hard way about the difficulty of hitting homers at T-Mobile.
“He hit it and he had that little look when you hit one like, ‘I got it,'” Servais said. “He’s kind of taking his jog toward first base and then you realize, ‘Oh gosh, it’s not going to get out.’ Guys in the dugout were like, ‘Welcome to T-Mobile.’ And then the next time up, he just smokes a ball and that one did get out.”
Bauers was told by his new teammates when that first ball would’ve been a homer.
“They said open the roof or hit it at 1 o’clock,” Bauers said.
The Mariners got solid relief work as JT Chargois, Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider combined to pitch the final four innings without allowing a run and that enabled Seattle to come back from an early 3-1 deficit. Seattle is now 27-11 when scoring at least four runs and 14-7 in one-run games.
When Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred tries to highlight the improvement in pace of play from the 2021 season, he will not use the first inning of game Monday as an example of that.
It took 35 minutes to complete the first inning. Mariners starter Marco Gonzales allowed three soft singles, including a run-scoring looper off the bat of Trevor Larnach. He needed 25 pitches and faced six batters to get out of the inning, striking out Miguel Sano to end it.
Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda, who was activated from the 10-day injured list before the game, had minimal feel of his pitches and even lesser interest in working with pace or rhythm, throwing 33 pitches in the bottom of the first. After striking out J.P. Crawford to start, he walked the next three batters to load the bases. The Mariners failed to take advantage of his wildness, perhaps lulled to lethargy with the time in between pitches. Dylan Moore popped out and Bauers struck out to end the inning.
Both pitchers found a little better pace and quicker outs over the next few innings. Maeda didn’t work much faster, but he struck out the side in the second, allowed a run in the third on a run-scoring single from Jake Fraley and worked a scoreless fourth.
Working on a pitch limit, Maeda was done after four innings and 76 pitches. He allowed just the one run on three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.
In his third start since coming off the injured list, Gonzales pushed his pitch count into the 90s, which is a signal he is back to full strength. But he didn’t pitch with his preferred efficiency or reach his desired innings total. Gonzales pitched five innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
“I think certainly my execution definitely took a step in the right direction this start,” Gonzales said. “I’m feeling like I’m a little bit better out with my timing. But I think there were some pitches I tried to get a little bit more on. And my finish was a little bit inconsistent in those counts. I’m certainly not satisfied, a little frustrated in certain pitches, but a step in the right direction overall.”
Besides a 1-2-3 second inning, Gonzales had runners on base in each of his five innings. But he didn’t have runners on base at key times, specifically when Alex Kiriloff led off with a homer to center to start the fourth inning and rookie Gilberto Celestino hit a solo homer two batters later. The two solo blasts pushed Minnesota’s lead to 3-1.
Perhaps buoyed by the chance to face a different pitcher, who didn’t possess a devastating splitter and spent less time between throwing them, the Mariners immediately scored two runs against Maeda’s replacement, right-hander Luke Farrell. Fraley worked his second walk of the game and scored from first base on Ty France’s double down the third-base line. With one out in the inning, Moore, who had failed in his previous two at-bats with runners in scoring position, sent a ball off the wall in deep center that Celestino couldn’t catch as he went face first into the wall. It was a standup triple for Moore that tied the game at 3-3.