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Lewis backs Walker's stellar homecoming

@gregjohnsmlb
August 1, 2020

SEATTLE -- If there is such a thing as Player of the Month for a July that included just one week of games, Mariners rookie Kyle Lewis figures to be first in line. And the early front runner for American League Comeback Player of the Year? That just might be

SEATTLE -- If there is such a thing as Player of the Month for a July that included just one week of games, Mariners rookie Kyle Lewis figures to be first in line. And the early front runner for American League Comeback Player of the Year? That just might be teammate Taijuan Walker.

The 25-year-old Lewis continued his torrid start to this shortened season with two more hits on Friday, as a young Seattle squad topped the A’s, 5-3, behind seven scoreless innings from Walker in the home opener at T-Mobile Park.

Box score

It was the third straight win for an upstart Mariners group that evened its record at 4-4 and finds itself in the thick of the early American League West race, just a half-game back of front-running Houston.

Lewis extended his hitting streak to eight games to open the year, as he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored, ending July with a .455 batting average (15-for-33) and a 1.136 OPS, with eight RBIs and a pair of home runs.

Lewis and his Mariners’ mates have come out swinging the bats, but they're now getting a little help from the mound as well, as Walker allowed just one hit and two walks over seven frames while recording his first MLB win since 2017 while with the D-backs.

Walker is coming back after a two-year recovery fromTommy John surgery and was making his first start in Seattle since Sept. 30, 2016, when he won his final outing for the Mariners before being traded to Arizona that winter.

“It felt good,” said the 27-year-old right-hander. “The weather was perfect tonight, and just being out on the mound in a big ballpark. It felt comfortable. Being back in Seattle, it felt like I never left, honestly. It was fun tonight.”

Walker gave up seven hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings in his season debut in Houston last week, but he went more to his curveball to complement a 92-94 mph fastball. Mariners manager Scott Servais said that Walker's ability to go to quality offspeed offerings has opened new avenues for Walker since he was traded to the D-backs in 2017.

“Tai is a much different pitcher now than when we had the first go-round,” Servais said. “When we had him back in ‘16, he was very reliant on the fastball. Some nights he’d have a curveball, some nights he didn't and didn't really have much else after that. He has a much better understanding of how to use his pitches, and it's not just hit or miss on a given night.

“That's part of maturing as a pitcher. He’s got a chance to put together 10 starts this year and kind of get back on the map again after being hurt for a couple years.”

Lewis is just finding the map in his rookie season, but the 2016 first-round Draft pick has made a huge imprint in quick order among both his teammates and the league. He became the first (and remains the only) player with six straight multi-hit games, and he leads MLB with 15 hits overall.

“I don’t think about streaks,” Lewis said. “I think about games and at-bats. Streaks happen as a result. I don’t know how long that lasts. I don’t even have a goal of how long that’s supposed to last. I didn't even know that existed until now. It’s just a thing of getting in that box and trying to make things happen.”

Shortstop J.P. Crawford flourished again in the leadoff spot, going 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored to hike his own average to a healthy .393 and Kyle Seager -- one of the few veterans on the club -- delivered a two-run double to highlight a three-run fourth inning against A’s starter Sean Manaea.

Lewis scored from first on Seager’s double and Seager acknowledged his life has been made easier by the fact the youngster hitting in front of him always seems to be on base.

“You want to talk about a hot start?” said Seager, who shares the team RBI lead with eight. “He’s made my life real easy. It’s nice when there’s a guy on third every single at-bat and I hit a pop up and I get a high five for it. He’s been incredible.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.