SEATTLE – He made sure his team wouldn’t be shut out and set the tone for the Mariners’ 6-1 victory in the first inning with a home run on the first pitch thrown from Padres starter Mike Clevinger. And he added another accomplishment in a rookie season filled with so many of them in the fifth inning.
Moments after he took a fastball off his right pectoral muscle, he stole second with ease and possibly out of spite.
As Julio Rodriguez wiped the dirt off his chest and thighs from his headfirst slide, the video board at T-Mobile Park made sure the 24,238 in attendance knew they saw a little history.
With his 25th stolen base, Rodriguez became just the third rookie in baseball history to hit at least 25 homers and steal 25 in bases in a season, joining Chris Young, who accomplished the feat with the Diamondbacks in 2007 and Mike Trout of the Angels, who did it in 2012. Rodriguez hit the 25-25 milestone at 125 games, which is faster than Trout (128).
“It was amazing because we were able to get a ‘W’ and it’s definitely amazing because there’s not like a lot of people that have been able to do that,” Rodriguez said. “But I don’t see myself as a rookie. I see myself as a player like anybody else. And I’m just happy that I’m able to deliver for the team anytime.”
For manager Scott Servais, his favorite moment of the situation came after the stolen base as the crowd gave the young superstar a standing ovation and chanted, “JU-LI-O! JU-LI-O! JU-LI-O!”
Rodriguez removed his helmet, waved and then pulled his hand across the chest of his jersey where the words, “Los Marineros” in honor of Hispanic Heritage Day were in script.
“Everything I do, every single stat I put up is just for the team,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not trying to put myself above anybody. I just want to be able to perform for the team out there.”
Servais got emotional talking about it.
“It’s fantastic to watch a young player take off like that as talented as he is, but for me one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while is when he’s standing at second base after his 25th stolen base, and the crowd’s on its feet and they put the thing on the scoreboard, and he flashes across his chest,” Servais said. “It’s about the Mariners. That’s Julio Rodriguez.”
Rodriguez has 20 games to get four more homers and five more stolen bases to reach 30-30 and join Trout as the only rookies to achieve that feat.
With the 6-1 win over the Padres, Seattle improved to 80-62 . The Mariners’ past 11 games were against teams with winning records and playoff aspirations, posting a 7-4 record. It included a three-game series sweep over the Guardians in Cleveland, a 2-1 series loss to the White Sox, a 2-1 series win over the Braves and a 1-1 split with the Padres.
“We’ve just played four really good teams, teams that are all either going to head to the playoffs or they’re fighting to get there,” Servais said. “It says a lot about our team. First of all, it says we’re really good. And I think we’ve known that at least in our clubhouse that we have a good ballclub. I think our fan base knows that. I think people around the country are starting to pay attention that we are good. We can really pitch. We play good defense. We hit home runs. We do a lot. We check a lot of the boxes. That’s what it is going to take to continue this forward into a postseason berth. We’ve still got work to do.”
But that work should be somewhat easier. The key word being “should.”
The win over the Padres was the last game the Mariners will play against a team with a winning record for the rest of the season. The Mariners’ remaining 20 games – the next 10 on the road and final 10 at home – will be against the five teams with the worst records in the American League.
Here’s a look at the remaining schedule (records going into Thursday evening):
• Friday through Monday (four games): at Angels (61-82)
• Tuesday through Thursday (three games): at Athletics (52-91)
• Sept. 23-25 (three games: at Royals (57-86)
• Sept. 27-29 (three games): vs. Rangers (62-81)
• Sept. 30-Oct. 2 (three games) vs. Athletics (52-91)
• Oct. 3-6 (four games) vs. Tigers (54-89)
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