Lewis (6th HR, .354) continues AL ROY case 

August 22nd, 2020

SEATTLE --  continued making his strong early case for American League Rookie of the Year Award contention with his sixth home run of the season, as the Mariners held off the Rangers for a 7-4 series-opening victory Friday night at T-Mobile Park.

With the shortened season already just two games shy of the halfway point, Lewis has been sensational. The 25-year-old center fielder hiked his average to .354 with a 1-for-2 night, with two walks and three runs scored.

The big blow was Lewis’ 406-foot blast to center field in the second inning off reliever Wes Benjamin after the Mariners knocked Rangers starter Kolby Allard out with five hits and four runs in the first.

Benjamin tried to fool Lewis with back-to-back changeups, but the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder lined the second one over the fence with a 102.5 mph exit velocity.

“It’s amazing,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “This guy hits the ball in the air, and it just keeps going. He’s got some kind of power and he’s certainly seeing the ball very well."

White Sox center fielder Luis Robert came into the season as the strong AL Rookie of the Year Award favorite, and the 23-year-old clubbed his sixth homer of the season on Friday as well in a 10-1 win over the Cubs. But Robert’s line at this point is .275/.327/.538 with 15 RBIs, compared to Lewis at .354/.440/.545 with 18 RBIs.

Lewis leads AL rookies in hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. In other words, he’s done about everything possible in the first month.

“I’m most happy with just all-around contributing to the team,” the Georgia native Lewis said. “That’s something I want to be -- a player who can contribute in multiple ways. Being able to score a lot of runs is something I pride myself on, and playing good, solid defense. What I’m evaluating right now is how am I playing overall as a whole game? Defense, communicating, little things, going first to third or first to home on a double, those kinds of things.

The Mariners couldn’t ask for much more from their 2016 first-round Draft choice, whose path to the Majors was delayed by a serious knee injury in his first season of pro ball. Now that he’s reached the big leagues, he’s playing as well as anybody in the game.

“We’re fortunate to see it every day,” Servais said. “The thing that sticks out for me more than anything with Kyle is he’s not satisfied. He comes in every day and has a plan and is working on things. Even in batting practice, some guys get caught up with what their BP looks or how far they’re hitting it. He’s very structured and disciplined in what he’s trying to do. It’s a really mature approach for a young player.”

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The Mariners, who again started five rookie position players on Friday, improved to 9-19 with the win. Texas dropped its sixth in a row and fell to 10-15.

Nick Margevicius picked up his first win for Seattle after allowing four runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old lefty is 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA in six overall outings and has a 3.68 ERA in three starts since replacing an injured Kendall Graveman in the rotation.

Margevicius has become a surprising addition to the Mariners’ youthful pitching corps, joining fellow 24-year-olds Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn in this year’s rotation.

“He has really shown well for himself,” Servais said. “This is a guy who fits right in the same bucket with Sheffield and Dunn and a number of young pitchers we have. He’s going to pitch in this league for a long time. He really is. He throws strikes, does not beat himself and always has a good plan when he’s out there."

Margevicius sailed through four innings with seven strikeouts and just an infield single allowed, but the Rangers started timing him up in the fifth and sixth when they scored four runs on five hits and a walk with no strikeouts.

Rookie Joey Gerber replaced Margevicius and got the final two outs in the sixth, but the Rangers had cut the lead to 6-4. That’s as close as they could get though, as relievers Matt Magill, Dan Altavilla and Taylor Williams slammed the door with three perfect final innings, with Williams earning his fifth save.