SEATTLE -- If not for his former Minor League buddy, Aaron Judge, Mariners outfielder Ben Gamel might be making quite a case for himself as the American League Rookie of the Year.But while Judge further cemented his impressive case for that honor with his 32nd home run on Saturday for
SEATTLE -- If not for his former Minor League buddy, Aaron Judge, Mariners outfielder Ben Gamel might be making quite a case for himself as the American League Rookie of the Year.
But while Judge further cemented his impressive case for that honor with his 32nd home run on Saturday for the Yankees, Gamel was the one with a smile on his face at the end after doubling and scoring the winning run on a walk-off single by Nelson Cruz in the 10th in Seattle's 6-5 victory at Safeco Field.
Gamel, who was traded by the Yankees to Seattle in August for Minor League pitchers Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula, raised his batting average to .321 with a 2-for-5 game that included his sixth home run as well as his decisive double.
For good measure, the 25-year-old left fielder threw out Yankees rookie Clint Frazier with a perfect strike to second base in the first inning.
And, yeah, though he's downplayed the significance of playing his former team, Gamel acknowledged it was pretty sweet to come through against many of his former buddies.
"No doubt. It's good to see some familiar faces and stuff," Gamel said. "You've got Gary [Sanchez] and Aaron, I came up with both those guys, and [Austin] Romine. I had a great relationship with those guys. It's all good fun. It's competitive. I talk to Gary between pitches. He gives me a hard time, and I give it right back to him."
Mariners manager Scott Servais understands well what these games mean to his young left fielder. He also knows what Gamel has meant to the Mariners since being called up in late April after Mitch Haniger got hurt.
"Ben Gamel has been phenomenal in the batter's box all season long," Servais said. "He hits lefties, he uses the whole field. We've talked about there's a little more power to come as he matures and understands his swing a little more and starts looking for pitches.
"He's fired up to face the Yankees. Obviously he spent his entire career and came up with them. His hair is a little bit longer now, he's got a smile on his face. He's happy to get the opportunity. He wasn't going to get one over there, so it's worked out great for us."
Gamel was the MVP of the International League last year for the Yankees' Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club, but was stuck behind Judge and other players in their system. He's happy to have found a home instead with the team in the other corner of the country.
"It's very gratifying," Gamel said. "I can't really put it into words. I can't thank this organization enough for giving me this opportunity. It's been an up and down career so far, but I love it over here."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.