Look out, Derby! J-Rod slam seals Seattle's 12th straight 'W'

July 16th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Julio Rodríguez isn’t afraid of the moment.

The roar of the 26,000-plus fans inside Globe Life Field was almost deafening when he stepped up to the plate in the eighth inning Friday night to face Rangers reliever José Leclerc. The Mariners held a one-run lead, the bases were loaded, and Leclerc had just struck out back-to-back batters.

Strike. Ball. Strike. Ball. Ball. 

Leclerc was one strike away from striking out the side and flipping the momentum of the ballgame. The roars grew even louder. Then in a matter of seconds -- silence. 

Well, as silent as an away ballpark could get.

Rodríguez launched a 420-foot grand slam -- Seattle's first of the season -- to the batter’s eye, adding much-needed insurance to the Mariners' 8-3 win over the Rangers. The win pushed Seattle's win streak to an MLB-leading 12 consecutive games.

It was special, and manager Scott Servais could see it by the look on everyone’s faces in the dugout.

“It is Julio’s world right now and we’re riding along with it,” Servais said.

It was only a year ago that Rodríguez was playing for Double-A Arkansas and getting ready for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. 

Now, one year later, the rookie sensation has added a grand slam to his résumé just days before his first Midsummer Classic. Rodríguez was named as a reserve for Tuesday's All-Star Game in Los Angeles, making him just the sixth rookie in franchise history to be elected to the Midsummer Classic and the first rookie position player since Ichiro Suzuki during his historic 2001 season.

Rodríguez is having a historic 2022 season of his own, as he became the first Mariners player aged 21 or younger to hit a grand slam since Alex Rodriguez on July 6, 1996, also against the Rangers. 

“In that situation, I feel like the fans kind of got involved [and] I feel like it was a really big moment in the game,” Rodríguez said. “Being able to come through for the team, that was my top priority and being able to actually do it, it was very good for me.”

The 21-year-old outfielder is only 89 games into his MLB career, and it didn’t take very long for him to make an impression.

“From what I've seen, with the ball player that he is, he's not afraid to go the other way," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said, "he's not afraid to work the count. He's stubborn with two strikes. He looks like he's not afraid of the moment.

"I think that that's something that usually those young phenoms, they feed off of those moments instead. You've got [26,000] people on their feet and it didn't seem to bother him at all. You put all that together and you're obviously looking at a pretty elite talent."

If there’s one thing Rodríguez made clear Friday night, aside from not being afraid of the moment, is that he’s ready for the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Rodríguez is set to face Rangers All-Star Corey Seager in the first round. Though the Home Run Derby isn’t until Monday, fans have already gotten a glimpse at what the competition will look like. Both Rodríguez and Seager homered in Friday's game, giving them a 1-1 tie before heading to Hollywood.

“I’m ready to compete,” Rodríguez said. “That’s all we do on this side.”