NEW YORK — When home plate umpire Lance Barrett finally had heard enough and ejected Jarred Kelenic in the eighth inning, refusing to listen to a rookie continue to bark at him from the dugout after he already got his protests aired on the field, the Mariners were in a bit of bind.
Who would play center field with Kelenic out of the game?
Under normal circumstances, Jake Fraley would slide to center from left field and Dylan Moore would come off the bench to play left field. But the circumstances weren’t normal Sunday. Moore was starting at shortstop for a second consecutive game in place of J.P. Crawford, out with an illness.
The Mariners’ plan was to hopefully keep Crawford out of the game and combine that with a day off Monday to get him ready for the start of a six-game homestand Tuesday.
Seattle manager Scott Servais, who was ejected after angrily defending Kelenic, had the decision made for him before he retired to the clubhouse to watch the rest of the game on television.
“I didn’t really want to put J.P. in that game,” Servais said. “This guy has been some kind of under the weather. When Jarred got ejected, it’s ‘Where do you go? How do you move the pieces around?’ And J.P. just came right up to me down in the tunnel and said, ‘I’m going into the game.’”
Crawford was tested immediately when Luke Voit hit a nasty topspin one-hopper that Crawford fielded with ease.
In the ninth inning, he made a hustling grab of DJ LeMahieu’s soft ground ball and fired a strike to first off balance for a big second out.
“Sure enough, he makes a couple great plays and helps us win the ballgame,” Servais said.
As for Kelenic’s ejection on a pitch that appeared to be out of the strike zone, Servais understood his player’s anger and reaction. But he’s also had conversations with Kelenic about his reactions to borderline calls that go against him and his willingness to confront umpires. He also wants some foresight, knowing the team was short-handed in terms of outfielders and Crawford being ill.
“Strike or a ball? It was a heck of an at-bat,” Servais said. “It really was – second and third with a tough lefty out there throwing the sliders and the curveballs. The call did not go his way, but you learn a lot of different lessons in this game. You need to be heads-up in understanding where your teammates are at and where we were at there. Jarred was fine. It’s just when he got back to the dugout he wouldn’t let it go and that’s what got him tossed.”
After seeing the velocity on his pitches down a few ticks in his start against Tampa, the life on Yusei Kikuchi’s pitches returned Sunday. His fastball, which he threw 57 times, averaged 95.5 mph and touched 97.7 mph while his cutter, which he used 17 times, averaged 92 mph and touched 93.7 mph.
“My velocity was back, my command was back on my fastball,” he said through interpreter Kevin Ando. “After my previous outing in Tampa, I found a few things that I needed to work on up until today. It feels great to be able to have that feel back on my fastball.”