Bauers' 1st Mariners HR powers win vs. Twins

5 days after getting traded from Cleveland, OF delivers clutch homer in 8th

June 15th, 2021

The Mariners brought in Jake Bauers to fill in on a banged-up roster. A former top prospect who hadn’t lived up to his lofty potential. A left-handed bat with some pop. A guy looking for a fresh opportunity.

Bauers made his first major mark with the Mariners on Monday night, crushing a 400-foot homer to straightaway center field that broke a tie in the eighth inning and lifted Seattle to a 4-3 win over Minnesota at T-Mobile Park. It was a big welcome home for the Mariners following an 11-day, three-city road trip, one that involved Bauers making a drive from Cleveland to Detroit then back to Cleveland after he was dealt from the Indians to the Mariners in a trade on Thursday.

Bauers' homer was the difference, but the Mariners also received some promising fifth-inning production from Ty France, who hit a 107 mph RBI double, and Dylan Moore, who lifted a gnarly slider off the right-center-field wall for a standup RBI triple. The other run came in the third when J.P. Crawford hit a leadoff double and scored on a single by Jake Fraley, who broke out with the bat during a consistent road trip.

That combination helped the Mariners overcome three runs allowed by left-hander Marco Gonzales, who threw 91 pitches over five innings, his longest outing in three starts since coming off the injured list. The damage was not insurmountable, but the glaring numbers that stood out for Seattle’s No. 1 starter were the hard-struck balls, continuing a trend that has been ongoing all season.

But back to Bauers. Though his go-ahead deep fly provided dramatic flair, he thought he got a hold of one in the fifth on his 399-foot flyout to deep center. It was an awakening of sorts to his new offensive environment at T-Mobile Park, long known as a pitcher-friendly yard, but one that even more so fits that billing on a mid-60s night with the roof closed.

Bauers' homer wasn’t just an impressive piece of hitting, but also a reflection of a professional approach. He watched a 96.5 mph fastball from Twins right-hander Hansel Robles go by for ball one, then he anticipated that a changeup could be coming immediately after -- and he was right.

“Any time a guy throws 97, you have to respect the fastball,” Bauers said. “So I think the approach was sit fastball, look up the middle and if he throws you a changeup, trust your swing that you can stay back and stay through it. And that's exactly what happened.”

Bauers walked into the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park in Detroit last week as a fresh face looking for a new start. A career .211/.309/.365 hitter to that point with the Indians and Rays, the 2013 seventh-round Draft pick was fresh off being designated for assignment by the Indians, dwelling in his Cleveland apartment about what was next.

It was just one moment in a long season, but Monday offered a bright bit of clarity.

“Everybody here has kind of made it feel like home already,” Bauers said.

Though he’s been in the big leagues since 2018, Bauers is only 25 years old. In that context, he fits right in with where the Mariners are at in their roster assortment -- one not quite where it was in '19, when they were offering open auditions at the big league level, but rather one where they’re willing to take a flyer on a former blue-chip prospect with upside.

And right now -- literally, today, and possibly over the coming weeks -- the Mariners need him.

Bauers started in right field, filling in for Mitch Haniger, who is sidelined with a left knee contusion but may not need an IL stint. Bauers had been acquired to take a chunk of the reps at first base in place of Evan White, who homered for the second time in his fourth rehab game with Triple-A Tacoma as he recovers from a left hip flexor strain.

Will Bauers be around for the entire season for a club that has already used 51 players, six more than any other team? At this point, especially given the Mariners’ injuries, who knows. But Bauers is making the most of the opportunity for now.

“There's nothing better than contributing to your club and helping them win a few games,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You feel like you belong. You feel like you're making an impact as you get to know people and get to know our process and how we kind of go about things here. But I’m excited for him. … I'm excited about what he brings to our ballclub.”