SEATTLE -- Emerson Hancock stood in the home dugout at T-Mobile Park in the middle of the fifth inning Wednesday night and weaved his pitching hand through his hair while making a massive exhale to mark the end of his MLB debut.
Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth then wrapped his right arm around the 6-foot-4 right-hander and used his left hand to tap the pitcher’s chest, a gesture of a job well done.
Hancock threw five strong innings in the Mariners’ 6-1 victory over the Padres. Hancock surrendered just one run, via a leadoff walk to his very first batter that came around to score.
Other than that, Seattle’s No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, gave up just two additional walks and two singles while striking out three to put the Mariners in a strong enough position to reach the finish line, which they did thanks to a five-run eighth inning that gave them their seventh straight win.
“The first thing I can think of is the fans, the energy,” Hancock said. “I mean, as soon as I walked out of the dugout, you could feel it. You could feel it in the bullpen. You could feel it when I walked out and when I took the mound.”
Cal Raleigh sparked the rally with a 450-foot homer that nearly reached the third deck, eerily familiar to the one he crushed last fall that clinched Seattle’s postseason berth. The backstop worked a full count then dug out a sweeper from reliever Steven Wilson, who immediately shouted in frustration as the ball sailed, just as Padres catcher Luis Campusano leaned back from both knees onto his buttocks.
Everyone knew it was gone.
“It's the Big Dumper, man. ... It was a no-doubter,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He hits it, the finish is up high, he looks to the dugout. Like I said, we've seen that before.”
Just after, Teoscar Hernández took a 93.9 mph fastball off his helmet from Wilson on a fastball that the right-hander said, “got away from me,” which Servais recognized postgame of having no ill intent.
Nonetheless, Seattle responded by generating four baserunners that led to another three runs.
The Mariners (62-52) have won six straight series and reached 10 games above .500. The first time they did so last year? When they were 62-52, on Aug. 12.
“It's been nice to have a few things fall our way,” said Raleigh, who had some blunt self-criticism of the team when things were spiraling in late June. “We're playing good baseball right now.”
Hancock, who departed with the game tied, 1-1, was the Mariners’ first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. He joined Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as Seattle starting pitchers to reach The Show this season. But Hancock showed more jitters than the previous two, characteristic for the soft-spoken former Georgia Bulldog, who is as affable as he is competitive.
There was the leadoff walk to Ha-Seong Kim, then two stolen bases from the Padres’ on-base machine immediately after, which were manufactured by great jumps but also astute awareness of when Hancock wasn’t holding him. Kim then raced home on a groundout.
There was a mound visit from Raleigh and shortstop J.P. Crawford when Kim stole his third bag in the third inning to reach scoring position for Juan Soto -- an attempt of two leaders to reassure the righty to trust himself.
But there were also the jams that Hancock escaped that probably defined his debut more than anything.
“The first inning was kind of tough to settle in, for sure,” Hancock said. “Just trying to slow things down, trying to find a rhythm, trying to get things going. And then Cal did such a good job of just sticking to what we talked about and slowing me down.”
After that mound visit with Crawford and Raleigh, Hancock induced a groundout by Soto to escape the third. Then in the fourth, he worked around a leadoff walk by Manny Machado by retiring his next three in order. And he punctuated his night in the fifth, when he worked around a leadoff single by Luis Campusano by striking out Trent Grisham and Kim then generating a groundout from Fernando Tatis Jr.
As the Mariners continue marching up the standings, they have a promising new player who could be key down the stretch.