Lewis, Seager HRs highlight Mariners' loss

Seattle bats are sluggish in the series-opening rematch against Astros, Urquidy

April 27th, 2021

The Mariners’ four-game series opener on Monday night in Houston had a strong 2020 feel to it -- with run production from the two Kyles and limited offense from the rest of the order.

and each crushed booming home runs off José Urquidy, who they faced in a win 10 days prior, but both were solo shots while the Mariners were trailing, and the rest of Seattle’s lineup struggled against the Astros starter and the bullpen for just three additional hits in a 5-2 loss at Minute Maid Park.

The Mariners also played catch up from the second inning on. Justus Sheffield didn’t quite have command of his best pitch -- the elite slider -- and he gave up a career-high 12 hits and five runs (four earned). He was also the victim of some two-out and two-strike production by Houston and some ground-ball hits, as 11 of his 12 hits were singles. 

Lewis’ homer was particularly notable given that it was his first of the season and he was off to a 2-for-17 start after missing the first 17 games due to a bone bruise in his right knee. The deep fly was also a sign that the 25-year-old is regaining his timing after his rehab was exclusively limited to a simulated environment at the alternate training site.

Seager’s shot was merely a continuation of his road trip -- and all of April, really, sans a five-game hitless streak that he snapped on Friday. The oldest player on one of the American League’s youngest teams, Seager, 33, now has 20 RBIs, which trail only Boston’s J.D. Martinez and Tampa Bay’s Nate Lowe for the MLB lead of 21. He also has the most hard-hit balls in the AL, with 35.

But those two positive moments were far from enough to contend against an Astros lineup that is restocked with the returns of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Martín Maldonado, all of whom were on the COVID-19 injured list when the teams met in Seattle last weekend, when the Mariners won two of three.

“A little disappointed,” manager Scott Servais said. “We had just seen Urquidy a few days ago and [we] understand how he likes to pitch. He's going to be up in the zone, and we really didn't make good adjustments on high fastballs tonight.”

Monday was also a reminder that the Mariners could benefit from the lower leg of their lineup heating up. Lewis’ 28 RBIs last season and Seager’s 40 accounted for 45% of the Mariners’ run production, which became an issue when the club found itself playing in higher-scoring games.

Mariners’ results with offensive production

≤ 3 runs: 3-25 in 2020 | 1-7 in 2021 (including Monday)
≥ 4 runs: 24-8 in 2020 | 12-3 in 2021

It’s worth noting that Mitch Haniger went 0-for-4 in what was an uncharacteristically quiet night. As a result, he wasn’t on base for Ty France, who went 2-for-4. Those two have been one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the AL.

But the lower half of the order has been off to a much slower start. Beyond Haniger, France, Seager and No. 9 hitter J.P. Crawford, each of the other five in Monday’s lineup owns a batting average below the Mendoza Line: Lewis (.158), Evan White (.175), Taylor Trammell (.148), Dylan Moore (.113) and Luis Torrens (.167).

White had a chance to break through with two on in the eighth, but he flied out to center. Trammell struck out twice and upped his K rate to 42.1%. Moore went 0-for-2, then was pinch-hit for by Sam Haggerty, who’s been on a nice run off the bench. And between Torrens and Tom Murphy, Seattle has received among the lowest offensive production for catchers, with a 28 wRC+ (league average is 100).

“I feel really good how we match up against this ballclub over there,” Servais said. “They are healthy. That is their ‘A’ club, no question about it. But you’ve got to really execute. You’ve got to get good at-bats up and down the lineup, and we just weren't able to put a lot together tonight.”