Raley hoists trident -- and breaks it? -- on 3-hit night

May 14th, 2024

SEATTLE -- insists that he didn’t destroy the Mariners’ celebratory home run trident on Monday night and certainly hopes that he’s not on the hook to replace it after the prop came apart while in his possession.

But all said, he was all smiles after crushing a 432-foot homer and tying two career highs with three hits and three RBIs while lifting the Mariners to a 6-2 win over the Royals at T-Mobile Park.

“The bottom like fell off while I was carrying it,” a laughing Raley said. “It was like, ‘Dink!’ And I looked back, and it was basically in half.”

Monday’s homer from the 6-foot-4, 235-pound slugger was his second of the season, but his first in Seattle since joining the Mariners in a one-for-one trade with the Rays on Jan. 5 for infielder José Caballero. It was the Mariners’ third longest of the year, and it gave George Kirby plenty of runway to clear seven shutout innings.

For good measure, Raley also ripped a 103.4 mph single past first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino for an RBI in the third that scored Seattle’s fourth run of the night -- a typical barometer for the club’s success, as the Mariners advanced to 18-3 when plating that many. They’re also now 20-9 when homering, 20-6 when scoring first and 7-1 in series openers at home.

All three of Raley’s RBIs were against K.C. starter Brady Singer, who entered the night having surrendered two or more runs only twice in eight starts while looking like an early All-Star candidate. He added another single off reliever Chris Stratton in the eighth for just his second career three-hit game and his first as a Mariner, then proceeded to steal his second base of the season.

Off to a slow start dating all the way back to Spring Training, Raley has rounded into form this month, now slashing .375/.464/.667 (1.131 OPS) in nine games since the calendar flipped. He had just a .505 OPS in March/April, the lowest on the team among players with at least 50 at-bats.

A key in this stretch is that Raley has cut down his K’s, from a 30.4% strikeout rate from Opening Day through April to 25% from May on -- that, and more consistent playing time.

“That's always a challenge,” Raley said. “But at the same time, I wasn't swinging the bat well, and you kind of have to earn your at-bats. That's just how it goes. So I took it upon myself to be out there for early batting practice all the time so I could see a little bit more velo and just try to get more comfortable. And it seems to be paying off.”

Raley has made 20 of his 23 starts in the outfield, with the other three at first base. Manager Scott Servais recognized pregame that there could be a roster logjam once Dominic Canzone (left AC joint sprain) and J.P. Crawford (right oblique strain) return from the injured list, potentially as soon as this weekend in Baltimore.

Canzone, who led the team with an .817 OPS at the time of his April 14 injury, should return to regular action in left; same with Crawford, Seattle’s stalwart at shortstop. But Raley -- and utilityman Dylan Moore, for that matter, who’s filled in formidably for Crawford -- have warranted regular playing time.

Depending on the severity of the right hamstring soreness for second baseman Jorge Polanco, who left Monday’s game in the sixth inning, Moore would be a worthy fill-in there if needed.

But there could be a scenario in which the lefty-hitting Raley could see more time at first base or spell Mitch Haniger in right field against righties, with Canzone in left in those alignments. That would allow for Moore to play left against lefties with first baseman Ty France, whose bat had cooled before a big two-run homer in the eighth, his third of the year and first since April 27.

“We do have to cycle players through and keep everybody sharp,” Servais said, “which we've got a couple guys out there that have been playing a lot recently. ... You can never have too many good players, and keeping those guys fresh and keeping them going is going to be critical.”

The Mariners could have a few good problems on their hands once healthy and with their offense realizing more potential -- just as Raley seemingly has over the past few weeks.