Suárez 'brings the energy,' then delivers crucial homer

July 18th, 2023

SEATTLE -- After two tough losses to begin this 10-game homestand, Scott Servais called into his office on Sunday morning, ahead of an eventual win that avoided a sweep but also didn’t offer much offensive inspiration.

“I need you to bring the energy today,” Seattle’s manager recounted telling his third baseman.

So, throughout the afternoon despite a tightrope lead, Suárez brought his trademark “good vibes” to another level, perhaps easing some tension leading into this critical stretch before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline.

One night later, Seattle’s slugging third baseman put a vital touch on a 7-6 win over the Twins at T-Mobile Park, crushing a 396-foot, sky-high, two-run blast in the seventh inning that proved decisive after Ty Adcock gave up a three-run homer in the ninth. was then called upon for one batter and secured his 19th save.

“Sometimes, I've got to do that, let them know that if we keep in our energy, we're going to have a good day,” Suárez said. “And yesterday was simple. I tried to send that message to them that we've got to keep going. We've got to keep the energy like that.”

Suárez’s homer was just his 12th this year, putting him on pace for 21, well below the team-leading 31 he hit in 2022. His .368 slugging percentage entering Monday is down 91 points from last season, for 16th-highest dip among qualified hitters. But he’s still brought valuable chemistry among his teammates.

“That's the type of leader that he is," said . "Same with him, that at-bat, he grinded through. He fouled off tough pitches. He took some tough pitches. And then finally, [Twins reliever Oliver Ortega] hung one for him, and he doesn't miss those.”

Monday marked the Mariners’ 11th game since the start of June in which they entered the day .500, and the victory was just their third in those contests.

It was also the first of seven times that they’ll face the Twins through next Wednesday, including a three-game series at Target Field. These teams entered play separated by just one game in the standings, but the Mariners were five games out of a postseason spot while the Twins held a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL Central. After the series opener, FanGraphs’ playoff odds have the Twins with a 68.2 percent chance of reaching October -- and the Mariners just 16.2 percent odds.

Some other notes from Monday’s win:

Leveraging the leverage moment
Before Suárez broke through, the Mariners struggled to get going against Sonny Gray, who had five strikeouts through the fourth inning. But they finally rallied to score four runs in the fifth, and via a situation that they’ve been hamstrung by lately: bases loaded.

After grounded out, doubled, walked and was hit by a pitch, setting up for a one-run single.

then flied out, putting the rally in peril of ending with just one run. But laid off two sweepers -- including a close check-swing on ball four -- to tie the game. And Kelenic punctuated the comeback with a two-run, 69.4 mph single to the opposite field that put Seattle ahead for good.

“We just got more patient and we knew exactly what we're looking for. ... I was just trying to stay in the middle to the other way,” Kelenic said. “I wasn't trying to hit a grand slam there. Like, it wasn't necessary.”

Kelenic also ripped a 102.3 mph knock in the seventh to notch just his second multi-hit game in three weeks. The strikeouts have crept back in his game -- his 32.6 percent K rate was third highest in MLB entering play -- but he’s put together more competitive at-bats lately.

Gilbert labors but leaves on high note
In his first outing since earning AL Player of the Week honors, saw far more traffic than in his previous two outings in San Francisco and Houston, ballooning his pitch count to 70 after the third inning and 82 after the fourth. But he needed just 12 to work through the fifth and preserve a lead.

With a more deliberate pitch mix this year, Gilbert’s most notable adjustment on Monday was working with “not much fastball going,” Servais said.

“I think just the trust and like, knowing you don't have to be at your best,” Gilbert said. “Sometimes it's easy when everything's working. Anybody can pitch like that. But on a night like tonight, you just try to find a way -- just get outs.”