Suárez's walk-off HR continues Mariners' hot streak

May 29th, 2023

SEATTLE -- Don’t look now, but the Mariners are quietly climbing the American League standings, and after Sunday’s 6-3 walk-off win over the Pirates, they’re now a season-high three games above .500 (28-25).

Eugenio Suárez crushed a middle-middle slider for a three-run, tiebreaking homer in the 10th inning that represented the Mariners’ first walk-off since Sept. 30, when Cal Raleigh ended the postseason drought.

Seattle’s 16-9 record this month has correlated to a .640 win percentage that trails only the Astros (.667), Rangers (.667) and Yankees (.654) in the AL, with New York’s 17 wins being the only mark better. And the Bronx Bombers begin a three-game series vs. the Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Monday.

With their season trending up, here are a few takeaways from the Mariners’ 6-1 homestand so far.

They’re taking care of business
Following a four-game sweep of Oakland and a series win over Pittsburgh, the Mariners are a combined 12-1 against the Pirates (an up-and-coming club that’s 6-16 in May), the A’s and the Rockies (two last-place teams). They are 16-24 against all other opponents. 

While they recognize a need to level up to their competition moving into summer -- especially within the AL West, where Texas looks real and Houston is heating up -- the Mariners are still winning games that they’re proverbially supposed to. It’s notable that they’re doing so on the heels of tough trips to Boston, where their starters had a few uncharacteristic clunkers, and Atlanta, where they hit .211/.274/.326 (.600 OPS) with 34 strikeouts in 95 at-bats.

“We’ve done what we’ve needed to do. ... We’ve got the Yankees coming in here, and we have a chance to have an awesome homestand,” manager Scott Servais said.

Memorial Day is typically the first credible barometer to eye the standings, and the Mariners sit three games out of an AL Wild Card spot, tied with Boston as the first teams on the outside looking in.

They’re hitting more consistently
Julio Rodríguez is officially heating up. He crushed a sky-high homer in the first inning and ripped a single through the right-side hole in the third, making him 14-for-30 on this homestand for a slash line of .467/.484/.800 (1.284 OPS).

It’s not just the reigning AL Rookie of the Year who’s found a groove, either. Cal Raleigh crushed a carbon-copy homer to Rodríguez’s in the fourth -- each with a 43-degree launch angle, 6.9 seconds of hang time, to the pull side and just barely over the wall. Raleigh is hitting .310/.383/.595 (.978 OPS) dating back to May 15, when he homered from both sides of the plate in Boston.

Ty France went 0-for-4 on Sunday, but he’s also found his groove after avoiding an injury when he took a 94.5 mph fastball off his left hand. The first baseman is 7-for-21 on the homestand with three of his five homers. J.P. Crawford went 1-for-4 but was robbed of extra bases on a 99.9 mph line drive that Pirates center fielder Ji Hwan Bae made a remarkable catch at the wall on. He’s hitting the ball 5.3 mph harder than last year.

And then there’s Suárez, who’s seen up-and-down results since recently making a few adjustments. It’s partly why the Pirates intentionally walked Jarred Kelenic to face him in that fateful at-bat.

They’re continuing to pitch brilliantly
Marco Gonzales was admittedly frustrated that he came one out shy of finishing off the sixth inning for what would’ve been his fifth quality start, especially with his day ending on a full-count walk. But Gonzales, who gave up just one run, again moved past tough starts in Toronto and Boston and has now surrendered three runs or fewer in seven of 10 outings. The Mariners have also won seven of his 10 starts.

Even with Justin Topa giving up a chopped infield single to Andrew McCutchen and a triple to the corner to Bryan Reynolds that put Paul Sewald in a tight spot, which culminated with a wild pitch that tied the game at 3 in the eighth, it was still a stingy effort from Seattle’s staff. That was especially true of Tayler Saucedo, the local lefty who worked into and out of a bases-loaded jam, striking out Ke’Bryan Hayes in a full count to keep the game tied in the 10th.

For the season, Mariners pitchers lead MLB in wins above replacement (10.3) per FanGraphs, WHIP (1.15) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.6). They’ve also surrendered the fewest home runs (41) and the lowest opponent on-base (.287) and slugging percentages (.352) as well as OPS (.639) entering Sunday.