KANSAS CITY -- Live by the long ball, die by the long ball. Or so they say.
For the Mariners, it’s been nothing but living right so far in 2019, as they mashed their way to yet another win Thursday. The capper was a screaming line drive over the right-center-field fence by Daniel Vogelbach in the top of the 10th inning for a 7-6 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The upstart Mariners became the first Major League team to homer in its first 15 games. And perhaps even more remarkably, Seattle improved to 13-2 on the season with a rebuilding team supposedly pointed more toward the future.
Turns out, the present is pretty impressive on its own, as the Mariners head home to take on the Astros and the Indians with the hottest offense not just this season but in MLB history through the first 15 games.
• Only one other American League team since 1988 has started out the year at 13-2 -- last year’s Red Sox, who went 17-2 on their way to a World Series championship.
• The Mariners' surprising start has been fueled by the long ball, as the rebuilt club now has 36 homers, tying it with the 2000 Cardinals for the most home runs in MLB history in the first 15 games of a season.
• No other club had scored six-plus runs in 13 of its first 15 games, and Seattle’s 15 straight games with a homer breaks the previous record of 14 games set by the 2002 Indians.
Dee Gordon got the Mariners’ record-breaking homer in the sixth off Royals starter Jorge Lopez, but it looked at that time like it would be a lonely highlight in a road trip-ending loss. Instead, Seattle scored seven times in the final five frames, including a two-out, two-run triple by Mitch Haniger on a 3-2 count in the top of the ninth to send the game into extras.
But it was Vogelbach’s 427-foot line drive off Glenn Sparkman that had everyone talking postgame. It was the stocky 26-year-old’s sixth homer in the past seven games and the 112.7 mph exit velocity made it the hardest-hit homer by the Mariners this season.
“That was like a 1-iron shot out of here,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “It was crazy. This is a big ballpark and he can make it look small. Vogey’s had great at-bats. He’s got power, he knows the strike zone, he’s feeling great at the plate right now. And with that personality, he gets everybody fired up from the first pitch all the way to the last one today.”
Vogelbach is finally getting a chance to be a full-time designated hitter this season after Nelson Cruz departed in free agency, though he’s had to force his way into the lineup after Edwin Encarnacion got much of the early DH time.
With Encarnacion now playing more first base and Jay Bruce shifting to the outfield at times, Vogelbach has hit .462 (12-for-26) with six homers, four doubles and 11 RBIs in the past seven games.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be high enough,” Vogelbach said of his line-drive shot. “I was just hoping it at least went off the wall for a double. But it rose out and then [rookie Connor] Sadzeck closed it out and we got the win.”
Gordon was a less likely candidate to extend the Mariners’ streak earlier, but the speedy second baseman lined his first homer of the season over the right-field fence leading off the sixth on a shot estimated at 360 feet by Statcast.
Gordon, who now has 16 career homers in nine seasons, attempted to give Vogelbach credit for extending the streak, even though he’d never have got his 10th-inning opportunity if not for Gordon’s shot.
“The home-run hitter hit one, too, so mine doesn’t count,” Gordon said after joining the long-ball parade. “I was fine with doing what I was doing, just trying to play my game.”
Gordon also laced an RBI triple in the seventh and Haniger tied the game at 6-6 with his two-run triple off reliever Brad Boxberger with two out in the top of the ninth, one night after hitting the go-ahead homer off Boxberger in the same situation.
“That was awesome,” said Servais. “What a team effort. Unbelievable series we had here and a great road trip and start to the season. Literally everybody in the bullpen and up and down the lineup is contributing. It’s a great feeling. Confidence is building. It’s a high. And we’re riding the Vogey train. What can we say?”