France's 11-pitch BB fuels decisive 7-run 6th

Game-changing PA allows Mariners to end homestand on a high note

April 8th, 2021

SEATTLE -- In a contest that featured 14 walks, a single free pass that culminated in an epic showdown between Ty France and Matt Foster during the bottom of the sixth inning proved to be the difference in the Mariners’ come-from-behind, 8-4 win over the White Sox on Wednesday at T-Mobile Park. 

Eleven pitches. Two outs. Beginning in an 0-2 count. Runners on the corners.

Those were the stakes of France’s game-altering base on balls that directly led to four ensuing runs as part of a seven-spot that Seattle put up against the Chicago bullpen after finally chasing Dallas Keuchel.

The Mariners had already scored three runs to tie the game at 4 when France stepped in the box, then after he reached, Kyle Seager laced a bases-clearing double and José Marmolejos followed with an RBI single that capped the seven-run frame -- surpassing the Mariners’ largest run-scoring inning of the season, accomplished in their six-run eighth that capped their comeback on Opening Day.

“I just tried to get on time for the fastball,” France said. “That's all you can really do is get the foot down early and I'll try and put a good swing on it."

France swung and missed at the first two pitches then he fouled off his third, all of them 95-plus mph fastballs from Foster. France then watched two balls go by to get back into a favorable, 2-2 count, at which point Foster began going back and forth between his fastball and changeup, attempting to thwart France’s timing -- but to no avail.

The count went full when Foster spiked a changeup in the dirt. France fouled off one more 95.5 mph heater, then he drew ball four on a fastball that bled too high over the zone. 

“I was just trying to get something good to hit,” France said. “I knew there were two outs, a guy on third. I was just trying to put the ball in play. I went down 0-2 quick, and then it was just battle from then on out and just try to keep the line moving pretty much, and I drew the walk.”

The 11 pitches represented the second most in a plate appearance in his career, and he’s now 3-for-3 with two walks on plate appearances with 10-plus pitches. It was also the Mariners’ most pitches in a walk since 2019. 

“Thankfully, it gave me a lot more time to get loose out there, so that was nice of him. I appreciated that,” Seager joked. “But that was an incredible at-bat. He worked him like crazy. It might have tired him out a little bit, which was nice for me, obviously, but it was just a really, really good at-bat. He was in there battling, so that was awesome.”

Beyond France’s showdown, the seven-run sixth offered promising signs for an offense that struck out 15 times in each of their previous two games and had mostly limited performances outside France and Mitch Haniger. 

We definitely got hit with the injury bug a little bit this series, so that definitely can deflate you a little bit,” Seager said. “So I think having that big inning and pulling this one out, it’s definitely a morale booster.”

France was the Mariners’ best bat in Spring Training, with a 1.135 OPS that ranked seventh in MLB. Now, Seattle’s everyday No. 2 hitter is putting even more credibility to his offensive profile by matching that production in the regular season. He leads all Mariners by sizable margins in batting average (.318) and OPS (.990) through his first 22 at-bats. In last year’s shortened season, the 26-year-old hit .305/.368/.468 with a 134 OPS+

“He can hit a lot of different pitches, and he's got great eye-hand coordination,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He knows where the barrel of the bat is, and he can get it to almost any pitch. … When you're in those kinds of at-bats, like he had against Foster, it's pretty awesome to watch. He did not back down. He was not going to give in.”