While the world around him explodes in wonder and awe, Kyle Lewis is the calm in the eye of the storm.
“I try to go about business as usual, man,’’ Lewis said before Thursday’s game, even as he was being tugged in many different directions — a suddenly common occurrence for Lewis after his first two major-league games.
Few Mariners have ever announced their presence with such ferocity … a mind-boggling introduction to the world that continued unabated on Thursday. In fact, few in major-league history have.
In his first major-league game on Tuesday, Lewis broke up Trevor Bauer’s no-hitter with a fifth-inning home run. And the next night, he broke up Sonny Gray’s no-hitter in the seventh inning with a three-run home run. He was just the 24th player in MLB history to homer in each of his first two games, and the first player ever to hit a game-tying or go-ahead home run in the fifth inning or later both times. And when Lewis homered yet again in the fifth inning on Thursday, he become just the second player in history to have homers in his first three games (joining Colorado’s Trevor Story in 2016).
Those are just numbers, though. The full scope of Lewis’ saga is so much more than that. Not the least of which is the composure he is maintaining through it all.
“He’s real quiet, real subdued,’’ said Mike Cameron, the former Mariners outfielder who now serves the organization as a special-assignment coach.
“He’s in his own little world, man. That bodes well. Everybody can’t be that poised when they first get a chance to come up here and the bright lights are on and you get a chance to show your game. He seems very in control of himself.”
With Lewis, the temptation is always to start with the devastating knee injury he suffered just 30 games into his professional career. No question that the ACL tear threw his trajectory through the minor leagues — expected to be meteoric — off track. But Lewis believes it’s beyond time to shift that narrative, now that he’s been healthy for two years.
“I just want to continue working,’’ he said. “Just continue to have a conversation about that, working every day to get better. Trying to get my best effort every day, and less of a health-related conversation. Just baseball-related.”
That topic contains multitudes. This season at Class AA Arkansas re-established Lewis’ prospect status, and his explosive major-league start — which included a ringing double in the second inning on Thursday, and a sharp single in the third, both on breaking pitches, before homering in the fifth off a fastball; oh, and an excellent sliding catch after a long run as well — has whetted the appetite for the impact he could make in Seattle in the very near future.
Mariners manager Scott Servais has likened Lewis to Jermaine Dye, a two-time All-Star with 325 career homers and nearly 2,000 hits. His own role model is Adam Jones, whom the Mariners foolishly traded away to Baltimore just when he was on the verge of stardom. Cameron, who spent extensive time in Little Rock this year, sees a player who doesn’t even realize how good he can be.
“He kind of smirks at me when I tell him, there’s so much more game in you. He has the capability to be a 30-, 35-homer bat,’’ said Cameron, who has been at T-Mobile Park for Lewis’ debut series against Cincinnati.
“He can run a little bit. He’s got great range. That’s the thing I’ve been trying to push him on, his running game. Take advantage of some of that skillset, too. Obviously, he has a very big ceiling of doing awesome things in the game.”
No doubt, this is where every Mariners fan screams to hit the brakes. They have seen other September flashes who burnt out, like Jeremy Reed (.397 in 18 games in 2004) and Jeff Clement (.375 in nine games in 2007). They remember how Dustin Ackley was practically fast-tracked to the Hall of Fame when he homered in his second major-league game and tripled off Cole Hamels in his third. Some might even remember how Jesus Montero hit .328 with four homers in his initial September showcase with the Yankees in 2011 before the Mariners acquired him in the offseason with great fanfare and unlimited expectations.
You get the point. Three games do not ensure a glittering career. Not even the obvious talent that Lewis possesses does that. But Servais sees subtle signs beyond Lewis’ tools that give him hope that this unleashing of Lewis is a harbinger of things to come.
There’s the fact that his first two homers were off two bona fide All-Stars at the peak of their game, and he turned around high-octane fastballs (as he did in his third homer, as well). There’s the way Lewis studies the game from the dugout, always in tune with the situation and analyzing the proper approach.
“Thinking the game is really, really important to being a winning player at this level,’’ Servais said. “We all love talent; talent plays. But to get the most out of your talent, you really have to think through it, and I’ve been impressed how he’s handled that stuff.’’
Lewis said the best part of it was that the Mariners won each of his first two games. Otherwise, it would have been an empty accomplishment, even with his parents on hand from Georgia to witness his heroics (Lewis’ brother is due in town soon, too). They dropped Thursday’s game, 11-5, despite Lewis’ 3-for-5 effort.
“I’m going to let that play itself out,’’ Lewis said of the hubbub around him. “Just keep my head down and keep working. It’s only been two days.”
Very wise. But it has now been three ecstatic days in a Mariners season bereft of much joy. The hope of more such days to come is the greatest gift Lewis has given Seattle.
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