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Seattle Mariners

Julio Rodriguez collects 3 hits, M’s rally to salvage final game of road trip

Julio Rodriguez (44) of the Seattle Mariners celebrates a win with Jonathan Close (5) after a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Washington, D.C.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

WASHINGTON – They couldn’t end an already disastrous series and a disappointing road trip with another defeat.

Five straight losses with a cross-country flight home to start a four-game series vs. the Astros? It would be misery in confined company at 30,000 feet. No downloaded movie or TV series or adult beverage would make that trip home pleasant.

And just when it seemed as though the worst might happen, the Mariners two All-Stars from the 2022 season made sure it didn’t.

The first 50-plus games of the 2024 season have been anything but All-Star-caliber for Julio Rodriguez and Ty France for similar and yet different reasons.

But in the sticky heat of a sun-drenched Sunday at Nationals Park, the two players carried a Mariners offense to a much-needed 9-5 victory.

Rodriguez had three hits, including a solo homer for the second straight game, the game-tying RBI single the eighth inning and a big two-run single in the ninth for some a insurance runs.

France smashed a two-run homer in the same inning as Rodriguez’s homer and scored Rodriguez with the decisive go-ahead run in the ninth on a single through the right side of the infield.

“We made it through the road trip,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve got a big homestand ahead of us. Our team is tired right now. … The trip back home will be a little bit happier after a win. But we’ve got work to do when we get home.”

The Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak and finished the 10-game road trip with a 4-6 record. They improve to 28-26 on the season and will face an Astros team that is slowly starting to rebound from an abysmal start to the season.

It’s never dull when the two AL West rivals meet up. There won’t be a lack of energy or animosity.

“Obviously, it was a long road trip, but that’s baseball,” Rodriguez said. “We signed up for it. Even though we get tired or whatever, we are always going to find a way to push through. I know it’s going to be fun games (against Houston). I feel like all the whole fanbase will be waiting for them. I think it’s gonna be good.”

Don’t let the score fool you into thinking it was an easy victory. The Mariners simply cannot generate a drama-free victory that doesn’t leave the fanbase incensed about something.

In the 10th game in a stretch of 17 games in 17 days and 30 games in 31 days, the Mariners’ cautious approach to not extend their young starting pitchers combined with a bullpen that simply can’t avoid baserunners or runs caused ignominy more amongst fans and probably some players.

For the second straight game, Servais pulled his starting pitcher early out of caution and saw the bullpen put his team behind.

Seattle pieced together a run in the second inning off Nats starter Patrick Corbin, capitalizing on a Nats error. Rodriguez led off the fourth inning with a deep drive into the bullpen in left-center for his fifth homer of the season. Mitch Garver followed with his second straight walk against Corbin and France smashed a deep fly ball into the left field seats for a 4-0 lead.

It seemed like plenty of run support for Seattle starter Bryan Woo. He worked through the first six innings, allowing one run on just 68 pitches. The lone run was a solo homer to Joey Gallo on a 2-0 fastball.

Servais sent Woo back out for the seventh inning. The young right-hander had never recorded an out in the seventh inning of a start in his career. It’s a streak that was unfortunately extended. Woo gave up a bunt single to Victor Robles and a linedrive single to Nick Senzel.

Servais didn’t hesitate, calling on Ryne Stanek, who had allowed just one hit in his last five appearances, to work out of the jam. Stanek struck out Joe Gallo but gave up a bloop single to pinch-hitter Keibert Ruiz to load the bases. The Nats brought in former Mariner Jesse Winker to pinch hit. Out of the starting lineup due to cramps, Winker thought he hit a grand slam on an elevated Stanek fastball. But his fly ball to right was caught on the warning track. He had to settle for a sac fly that cut the lead to 4-2.

C.J. Abrams turned a two-run deficit into a one-run Nationals lead quite quickly, yanking a 1-1 slider off the foul pole in right field for a three-run homer.

But unlike so many games on this road trip, the Mariners offense found a way to produce runs without hitting a homer.

Facing right-hander Dylan Floro, who had allowed just one earned run this season and hadn’t allowed a run in his last 212/3 innings pitched, J.P. Crawford led off the eighth with a double to right-center. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Rodriguez’s hard single up the middle to tie the game at 5.

The Mariners kept pushing against Floro. Rodriguez swiped second and scored on France’s two-out single through the right side to make it 6-5.

“The best version of Ty is taking that two-strike, two-out single to right field and then once in a while he’ll run into one and pull it out of the ballpark,” Servais said. “We saw the best version of him today. He wasn’t trying to do too much, just taking what the pitcher gives you and what the situation calls for.”

Seattle got a solid eighth inning of relief work from Austin Voth, who pitched in parts of five season for the Nationals. He worked a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.

The Mariners continued to add in the ninth. Josh Rojas, who entered the game when Jorge Polanco left with hamstring tightness, led off with a double. Luke Raley then dropped down a bunt for a single that put runners on the corners. Crawford walked to load the bases and Dylan Moore took a 2-2 fastball off his shoulder to force a run across.

It brought Rodriguez to the plate. He fell behind 1-2, failing to capitalize on a pair of hittable pitches from right-hander Jordan Weems. But he showed maturity, staying on an outside fastball and sending it to right field for a two-run single.

It was his favorite result of the day.

“The homer was cool and everything, but I feel like in that moment right there, I liked that one the most,” Rodriguez said.