ANAHEIM, Calif. — As a large group of media stood waiting for him in front of a navy backdrop arrayed with Mariners logos, Ty France, ever the team comedian, looked at the group and remarked, “Oh, this is way too many people.”
Knowing France likes the give and take, he was told, “Well, if you wouldn’t have played well then nobody would be waiting to talk to you.”
Without hesitation, France smirked and replied, “I’ve been doing a really good job of that lately.”
Never afraid of self-deprecation, the humor was easier for France following a game where the Mariners won 9-1 and he drove in four of those runs with an RBI double in his first at-bat and a three-run homer in his fourth at-bat while being on base for Carlos Santana’s game-changing grand slam.
“It felt good,” France said. “There were a couple of minor adjustments we made setup-wise and swing-wise, and it kind of paid off.”
The changes likely wouldn’t be noticeable if you weren’t looking for them. But assistant hitting coach Jarret DeHart was studying video of France’s at-bats earlier in the season and of late.
He noticed a few differences.
“He saw I was a little too narrow with my legs and it was causing me to kind of like drop my back shoulder,” France said. “My front half was going, but my upper half was staying back. I had to sync that up, and then it was just kind of working on the direction with my hands.”
France took the changes into the indoor cages and could feel the difference while hitting off the high-velocity pitching machine.
“I was backspinning fastballs off the machine,” France said. “I just kind of realized, ‘OK, I’m in a better spot.'”
He took it into the game and could feel the difference not just in the pitches that he hit but in the pitches out of the zone that he didn’t chase, which had been a problem of late.
“When I’m barreling fastballs and when I’m laying off like good pitcher’s pitches, if I’m able to take those then I’m usually synced up and on time,” he said. “The rest is kind of just direction with my hands.”
After being bothered by nagging injuries coming out of the All-Star break, sapping his production, France has felt out of sorts at times at the plate in recent weeks. He hit a two-run homer in the opening game of the series but had just a .154/.170/.327 slash line with only eight hits — three singles, three doubles, two homers — in his last 53 plate appearances coming into Monday with no walks and eight strikeouts.
With Eugenio Suarez on the 10-day injured list with a broken index finger and Julio Rodriguez and Mitch Haniger fighting through back soreness, the Mariners need France to return to his All-Star form.
“I thought his at-bats were really good,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was great to see.”
France is nearing his own kind of 20-20 club. He now has 20 homers and has also been hit by pitches 19 times this season.
Cal Raleigh out
Cal Raleigh was out of the starting lineup Monday afternoon due to a sore left thumb.
Raleigh jammed the thumb while diving into first base on the previous homestand. He sat out the opening game of the series and didn’t start Sunday, but a late pinch-hitting appearance in Sunday’s loss irritated the thumb.
“It’s still a bit of an issue,” Servais said. “We were trying to stay away from him yesterday. After the game yesterday, he probably let on that it was bothering him a little bit more than he had let on earlier.”
Curt Casali started in Monday’s 9-1 win and worked a pair of walks in four plate appearances. He’s expected to start Tuesday night in Anaheim with the A’s starting lefty J.P. Sears.
Raleigh will be available in emergency situations.
“I would like to give him another day or two down to let it calm down,” Servais said.
The discomfort in the thumb appears when Raleigh bats from the right side. He’s also starting to feel it while catching pitches.
“We need to let it calm down,” Servais said. “I’ve had that happen to me. Is it something you can absolutely play through? You can, but it doesn’t help when Logan Gilbert is out there throwing 98 miles per hour and Luis Castillo throws 100 miles per hour, and you’re not gonna catch every ball perfectly. It does put a lot of strain on your hands. It’s a challenge. And they don’t always throw it where you think they’re gonna throw it, which makes it even harder.”
Rodriguez (lower back tightness) took about 30 easy swings off the tee during Sunday’s game. The hope is that he will be available to play Tuesday night in Oakland when the Mariners open a three-game series against the A’s.