It’s the small moments that these Seattle Mariners, in the middle of this trying and turbulent rebuilding process, will have to relish.
There was nothing small about what Evan White did in the eighth inning of the Mariners’ 2-1 defeat in Houston on Saturday. White, the Mariners’ rookie first baseman, hit the second home run of his major-league career, a 439-foot shot to straightaway center field, blasted off his bat at 109.7 mph.
For all the Mariners’ struggles this season, and for all the frustrations White has experienced in his first month in the big leagues, that moment had to feel good.
“It was definitely nice,” White said in a postgame video conference call. “That (homer) and having a walk tonight, I think, was a big step in the right direction. Obviously, it’s been a struggle to start, but just being continuously in the process and working day to day, I know I’ll fall out of it eventually. So it’s definitely a good feeling.”
White entered Saturday hitting .113 with a .366 OPS in his first 71 major-league at-bats. He leads MLB in strikeouts, with 35.
But the Mariners have consistently lauded White as a cornerstone piece of their future, in no small part because of his exemplary defense at first, and they believe his bat will eventually come around.
In fact, the Mariners have been quick to point out that White has probably been as unlucky as just about any hitter in MLB so far this season. Nearly one-quarter of his at-bats — 16 in all — resulted in an out when he hit the ball 95 mph or harder. Only three other players in the majors entered the weekend with more hard-hit outs.
So you could say he was due for a positive result. He got it Saturday, hitting a 3-1 fastball on the outer half from Astros reliever Brooks Raley out of the park.
“Really happy for him,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He put a heck of a swing on that ball. It’s a long ways in this ballpark — you don’t see many right-handed hitters go there.”
White struck out three times in the Mariners’ 11-1 loss to the Astros on Friday night, but he did mix in a double too, and Servais complimented White’s improved approach before the game Saturday. White said conversations with, among others, Servais, Kyle Seager, Daniel Vogelbach and Kyle Lewis — his roommate in the minors — have helped him stay positive.
“The biggest thing when I talk to Skip (Servais) is, you’ve got to go out and enjoy each day. No matter what happens, you’re going to have a lot more success when you’re enjoying yourself,” White said. “Obviously, sometimes that’s easier (on some days) than others, but I just try to stick with that mentality and grow each and every day.”
The Mariners couldn’t get much of anything going against the Astros’ 23-year-old right-hander, Cristian Javier, who allowed only one hit with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings.
The Mariners, now 7-15, have lost four in a row overall and 23 of 25 against Houston.
Nick Margevicius, a 24-year-old left-hander, turned in the best outing of his Mariners’ career Saturday.
In his second start of the season, Margevicius allowed two runs on four hits in six innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk anyone.
“Getting through six innings, that’s kind of a steppingstone for me,” he said. “And to do it here against a pretty good lineup, it’s a bonus for me.”
A hard-hit grounder ricocheted off Margevicius’ right foot and rolled into foul territory near the Mariners’ visitors dugout, giving Astros slugger Alex Bregman a base hit with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Margevicius, having already thrown a season-high 91 pitches, then got a visit from Servais and a team trainer on the mound. The left-hander’s night, it appeared, might be over.
Except, after a short conversation, Margevicius convinced Servais he could finish off the inning — and he did just that. Margevicius, who earlier surrendered a long home run to Yordan Alvarez, needed just three final pitches to retire Alvarez on a ground out, stranding two runners in scoring position to end the sixth and keep the M’s close at 2-0.
After the debacle Friday, Margevicius gave his club — and the bullpen — a much-needed boost.
“I can’t say enough about the job ‘Marge’ did. He was awesome,” Servais said. “He threw the ball really, really well against a good lineup. He kept the ball on the ground almost all night — he got 10 or 11 ground-ball outs, and to get six complete innings out of him tonight was a heck of an effort. I really like the way he’s thrown the ball; he’s got a ton of confidence and really a good demeanor about him. He keeps making pitches, and he was really the highlight for me tonight.”
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Adam Jude to Houston for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.