SEATTLE – What is the best way to bounce back from being held scoreless for the first time in 72 games?
You make sure it doesn’t happen again … immediately.
Batting in his now customary spot atop the Mariners order, Julio Rodriguez made certain the Mariners wouldn’t be shut out for a second straight game while setting the tone in Seattle’s 6-1 decisive victory over the Padres.
With the win, Seattle improved to 80-62 on the season.
“The magic formula reappeared today, or the special recipe or whatever you want to call it,” manager Scott Servais said. “Dominant starting pitching and home runs, that’s what we subscribe to and perfect timing today.”
When Mike Clevinger delivered his first pitch of Wednesday’s series finale – a 94-mph sinking fastball that leaked toward the inside of the plate – Rodriguez wasn’t going to watch a “get-me-over” strike just because he was leading off.
Instead, he unleashed an aggressive swing meant to do damage, sending a towering fly ball into the visitors bullpen for a 1-0 lead before a large portion of the 24,238 fans in attendance had even taken their seats.
“It was a rough game yesterday,” Rodriguez said. “I was ready to compete. I’m happy I hit that first pitch out and kind of got the boys going.”
Rodriguez doesn’t have a set strategy on swinging at the first pitch. It isn’t based completely off scouting reports or pitcher tendencies. Other factors like how he’s feeling and the circumstances surrounding the team come into play.
“Trust your players,” Servais said. “Julio loves to play. You want him to be aggressive if you get a fastball to hit first pitch. Through the years with what George Springer did against us with the Astros, he would jump on that first pitch and it just makes pitchers uncomfortable from the minute he would step in the box. That’s exactly where you want the opposing pitcher to be. What’s this guy gonna do? Can he take me deep on the first pitch? It’s an uneasy feeling.”
It was 3-0 before those fans could finish the first sip of afternoon beer or bite into their lunch.
Ty France singled through the right side and Eugenio Suarez continued his torrid power streak, launching a towering fly ball to right-center that carried in the warmth of the afternoon and landed just over the wall for his 31st homer of the season.
After looking dominant in the top of the first, striking out Juan Soto swinging on 98-mph sinker that darted out of the zone like a video game and whipping a 100-mph fastball past Manny Machado to end the inning, Mariners starter Luis Castillo was given a 3-0 lead.
He produced another dominant outing, working six scoreless innings and allowing only four hits with a walk, a hit batter and nine strikeouts.
In the third inning, Castillo fired a perfect 99-mph sinker on the outside half of the plate to Juan Soto on a 3-2 count. Home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher, perhaps distracted by Cal Raleigh also throwing to second base on the pitch with Jurickson Profar stealing, called it a ball. Raleigh, who rarely gets noticeably confrontational with umpires, wheeled around and had a few choice words for Fletcher.
Had the correct call been made, Castillo would’ve given Soto, who rarely strikes out, a “hat trick” of three strikeouts in one game.
Seattle provided some more cushion and delivered a bit of a jab at Clevinger after he hit Rodriguez and France with pitches in the fifth inning.
Carlos Santana blasted a three-run homer deep into right-center to make it 6-0.
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