KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One swing of his bat and Kendrys Morales reminded folks still watching his Mariners why the team wants to bring him back next season.
There are counter-arguments, like his non-existent baserunning, inability to field a position full-time and a pricetag that will climb to eight figures per annum. But Morales on Wednesday flicked his wrists and launched an Aaron Crow offering some 414 feet over the center-field wall, delivering a 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals these floundering Mariners needed.
Few current Mariners have the type of elite, game-changing ability to hit a two-strike, 97 mph fastball as far as Morales did with the game on the line. And that’s why a Mariners team that has struggled to drive in runs all season is reluctant to part with one of the few dependable, middle-of-the-order bats they have.
“You have to open up your zone with two strikes,” Morales said of his mindset awaiting the 1-2 offering, with teammate Raul Ibanez interpreting. “He tried to throw a pitch away but he left a pitch out over the plate and I hit it.”
The Mariners had stranded eight more baserunners up to that point. Kansas City had used a four-run fourth inning off Taijuan Walker to erase a 4-0 deficit and it seemed Seattle might not score again the way it kept leaving runners in scoring position from the middle innings on.
But then Franklin Gutierrez worked a tough, two-out walk and Morales hit his first home run in over a month. That helped left-handed relief pitcher Lucas Luetge pick up his first win of the season after he threw two scoreless frames and Danny Farquhar closed out the ninth.
Morales looked like a hot commodity at the July 31 trade deadline, but had been in a tailspin since. He hit his previous home run on Aug. 2 and since then had posted a .200 batting average and on-base-plus slugging percentage of just .508 heading into this one.
Morales admitted he hasn’t felt productive in a while at the plate.
“I was trying to produce but I wasn’t able to,” Morales said.
The M’s seemed ready to cruise in this one, smacking around Royals starter Ervin Santana for a 4-0 lead by the fourth. But Walker started getting his pitches up too high in the bottom of the inning and some hard ground balls found the right holes as the Royals tied it.